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Gallbladder Attacks
April 2002

Q. I have a 15-year-old daughter who appears to be suffering from gallbladder attacks. Approximately 3 weeks ago my daughter had a sudden onset of upper right quadrant abdominal pain that began radiating to her back. We have been to the doctors and have had various tests done.

An ultrasound was done and there were no gallstones present. We then did a hida scan, which came back abnormal, showing a gallbladder output of 6%. We were told that this test was inconclusive as the medication given to make the gallbladder contract is now given in half doses and there are no studies on how this affects the test. A completed CAT Scan and upper GI endoscopy tests came back normal. We are trying to decide whether or not to have her gallbladder removed.

Is it common for someone so young to have gallbladder problems? What reasons can there be for the gallbladder to quit working? Could the pain my daughter is suffering from be something other than the gallbladder?

A. The problem you describe is certainly suspicious for gallbladder disease even though the diagnosis is not confirmed. It is unusual but not unheard of to occur in an adolescent. Gallbladder problems are more common in middle age women, and often other members of the family have had gallbladder problems, so a hereditary factor may play a role.

A certain percentage of patients with gallbladder disease have a normal sonogram (no stones seen) yet the gallbladder is scarred and inflammed when it is removed. The HIDA scan is suspicious that function is impaired. Your doctors are certainly proceeding in a careful and thorough manner. If the attacks keep happening, sometimes surgery is needed just to make the diagnosis. In most cases this can now be done by laparoscopic surgery which is faster, safer, and has much quicker recovery time than a more extensive surgical procedure.

http://www.gastro.org/public/gallstones.html

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001138.htm

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