Biliary disease refers to health problems that affect the biliary system, which is responsible for producing, storing, and transporting bile -- a substance that’s needed to digest fats. The biliary system includes two organs: the liver, which produces bile, and the gallbladder where bile is stored. A variety of ducts transport bile between the liver, gallbladder, and the small intestine where it’s used for digestion.
A wide range of diseases can occur in the biliary system, including inflammation of the gallbladder, infection throughout the biliary tract, damage and scarring of the bile ducts, and cirrhosis. These diseases, however, are not treated with surgery. If you experience pain in the upper right or middle abdomen, nausea, vomiting, or jaundice, please contact your primary care physician.
Biliary diseases that require surgical intervention include:
A variety of diagnostic procedures are used to diagnose biliary diseases and to determine whether surgery is needed. Blood tests are ordered to evaluate concerns such as infection and liver function.
You’ll also need imaging tests to show the extent of the disease and to guide the surgical procedure. You may undergo a CAT scan, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging, to name a few possible imaging procedures. Your surgeon at General Surgical Care recommends the appropriate imaging test following a thorough exam.
The surgeons at General Surgical Care perform laparoscopic and open surgery to remove the gallbladder (when gallstones block bile ducts) and tumors, cysts, or stones throughout the biliary tract. The type of surgery you’ll need is determined by the severity and extent of the disease and other aspects of your overall health.
Laparoscopic surgery, or minimally-invasive surgery, results in minimal scarring and quicker recovery, because the procedure is done through several small incisions. Minimally-invasive surgery is often possible for most types of biliary disease, including gallbladder removal and treatment for liver tumors.
During laparoscopic surgery, a laparoscope, a long, narrow tube that contains lighting and a high-definition camera, is inserted through one of the small incisions. Your surgeon uses the laparoscope to see the targeted area; then specialized instruments are inserted through other incisions to perform the surgery.
Open surgery is the traditional type of procedure that uses one longer incision to gain access to the targeted site. This type of surgery increases the risk of complications, and recovery time is longer, but it’s the best option in cases where infection and scarring are present.
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