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Woman Stomach Ache

Why Does it Take So Long to Diagnose Gallbladder Disease?

Your gallbladder, which is literally a bile storage tank located on the right side of your abdomen, is a bit like a computer – you take it for granted when it is working and then you spend hours trying to diagnose the problem when it is broken.

Why Gallbladder Disease is Difficult to Diagnose

Gallbladder disease is common, but it is often difficult to diagnose if it is not inflamed or causing severe pain. It is usually more of a chronic issue that intermittently causes symptoms or there is a single acute episode that is significantly worse. There is no one test that proves gallbladder disease.  Plus, many different diseases and conditions can cause the same symptoms to occur.

Instead, gallbladder disease diagnosis usually happens through the process of elimination as doctors rule out everything from heart disease to irritable bowel syndrome to acid reflux.  This process of elimination takes time and may require any combination of lab draws, ultrasounds, upper GI scopes, tracking which foods cause symptoms and more.

For patients, this can be a time-consuming and painful process as they suffer through the symptoms of gallbladder disease. However, patience is a virtue when it comes to diagnosis because thoughtful, methodical diagnosis prevents an unnecessary gallbladder removal when the gallbladder is not to blame.

The digestive tract of a human. Cartoon vector illustration for medical atlas or educational textbook.

Are you at increased risk for gallbladder disease?

The answer is YES if you:

  • Are a woman
  • Are over 40 years old
  • Have a family history of gallbladder problems
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Have diabetes
  • Take certain medications
  • Pregnancy

Learn about gallbladder surgery (cholecystectomy) performed at WakeMed.


About Crystal Pressley, MD

Dr. Crystal Pressley is a general surgeon with WakeMed Physician Practices – General Surgery. Dr. Pressley specializes in general surgery, trauma and critical care. Learn more about Dr. Pressley and schedule an appointment today.

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