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Gastroenterology Blog

Gallstone Risk Factors & Symptoms Explained

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Fri, Apr 13, 2018 @ 11:17 AM

gallstonesThe gallbladder is a small organ found on the abdomen’s right side, beneath the liver.  Its primary purpose is store bile that is released after eating as an aid in fat digestion.  However, the gallbladder can occasionally do more harm than good when it fails to function properly.

What are Gallstones?

Gallstones are hardened deposits of digestive fluid that occur in the gallbladder or the bile duct.  The size of these deposits can range from as small as a single grain of rice to as large as a golf ball.  Some patients only experience one, while others may have several. 

Symptoms of Gallstones

Many gallstones cause no symptoms whatsoever.  However, those that block the bile duct can lead to a number of painful and bothersome symptoms associated with the resulting inflammation, a condition also known as cholecystitis.  These symptoms include:

  • Pain and tenderness located in the upper right abdomen (Pain may also be felt in the upper right back and shoulder.)
  • Discomfort or pain after eating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever

Risk Factors for Developing Gallstones

Some patients are more likely to develop gallstones than others based on the presence of certain risk factors.  These include:

  • Family history of gallstones
  • Being overweight
  • Eating a diet that is high in fat or cholesterol or low in fiber
  • Experiencing rapid weight loss
  • Being pregnant
  • Being over 60 years old
  • Being female
  • Being of Mexican or Native American descent

Treatment for Gallstones

Some cases of gallstones, particularly those which are asymptomatic, may be initially treated with medications and changes in diet.  However, most patients who are experiencing symptoms from the condition will require gallbladder removal.  This procedure is safe and effective, and any side effects that patients may experience regarding digestive changes are generally mild and temporary. 

If you are experiencing the symptoms of gallstones, contact Gastroenterology Associates, and request an appointment with one of our Baton Rouge gastroenterologists.  Our physicians can confirm your diagnosis and discuss the most effective treatment options available to bring relief. 

Why should I visit a gastroenterologist

Topics: Gallbladder

Diagnosing Digestive Problems After Gallbladder Surgery

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 @ 4:00 PM


You followed the pre-op instructions to a T. The procedure went swimmingly. And while the pain has disappeared with your gallbladder, now you’re dealing with some less than ideal side effects.

We’ve gathered a list of the potential side effects that you may experience following a laparoscopic or open gallbladder removal procedure, as well as steps for treating these unfortunate side effects.

Let’s check it out.

Temporary/Chronic Diarrhea: Patients can sometimes experience temporary diarrhea following a gallbladder removal surgery, because the gallbladder is no longer there to regulate the flow of bile, which can result in a smaller, more constant flow of bile into your small intestine. While each person adapts differently to surgery and it may take a variable amount of time for different people, you should not be suffering from distressing symptoms, especially due to post- cholecystectomy diarrhea. If your symptoms persist for more than a few days, please contact your gastroenterologist. Chronic diarrhea can be managed with a low-fat diet as well as medication for binding excess acids in the digestive system. It is amazing (and sad) to see how many patients come years after their gallbladder surgery, having been troubled by chronic diarrhea for years, only to be fixed easily by a gastroenterologist.

Constipation: Post-surgery pain medication immediately after surgery—especially if they are opioid—may cause constipation. By consuming a diet high in fiber, you can prevent/relieve constipation. Sometimes you need other laxatives to be prescribed as well. It is best to rectify the problem ASAP, before it causes fecal impaction and abdominal pain, etc.

Retained stone: If stones travelled from your gallbladder prior to its removal, they can still cause pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, bloating, and jaundice. You may need additional procedure to remove gallstones that are retained in your common bile duct.

If you have persistent symptoms after surgery, you need evaluation to decide if the cause of pain is something else. Retained stones in the bile duct or even new stones that may develop after surgery cause symptoms and abnormal labs that help in the right diagnosis if evaluated appropriately.

Intestinal injury: Instruments used in surgery could damage your intestines—resulting in abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever. It’s vital to seek immediate medical attention if you experiencing any of these symptoms.

 If you are experiencing these or any other symptoms that you believe may be linked to your gallbladder removal, please contact a gastroenterologist immediately. The digestive specialists at Gastroenterology Associates are here to guide you on your path to digestive health. 


Topics: Gallbladder, Gut Health

What's ERCP and Who Does It?

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Thu, Aug 27, 2015 @ 3:37 PM

Endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography (ERCP) is a procedure that allows a gastroenterologist to examine the pancreatic and bile ducts. ERCP is an essential tool in diagnosing pancreatic conditions, managing jaundice, and dealing with gallstones that migrate to the bile ducts. ERCP is best performed by a board-certified gastroenterologist, who will have the highest ability to perform the procedure, interpret the results, and act on the results. 

How ERCP Works

ERCP-for-stuck-gallstonesERCP is a minimally invasive procedure that does not require abdominal incisions. During this procedure, a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera on the end is inserted through the mouth and into the stomach and duodenum, or the top part of the small intestine. Once in the duodenum, the doctor will be able to identify a small opening into the ducts, through which he inserts a thin tube (cannula). Finally, the doctor injects dye into the ducts through the cannula, and x-rays are taken.

This provides an image of the system of ducts that connects the pancreas and liver to the intestines. If necessary, the doctor can take biopsies at the same time.

Uses of ERCP

ERCP is often used to diagnose people who have symptoms of diseases of the bile ducts or pancreas, especially if blood tests or other imaging tests gave inconclusive results. Symptoms that may indicate such problems include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice
  • Weight loss
  • CT scan or ultrasound showing gallstones or a mass in the ducts, pancreas, or liver

ERCP can also be used to treat certain conditions. It can be used in conjunction with gallbladder surgery, and can successfully be used to remove bile duct stones in patients that develop jaundice, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting from impacted stones. 

Tumors that block the ducts can be identified and treated by inserting an indwelling plastic tube to bypass the blockage. ERCP is useful in patients with pancreatic cancer or chronic pancreatitis causing narrowing of the bile ducts and jaundice, so the symptoms of jaundice, itching, nausea, etc. may be relieved.

Who Performs ERCP?

ERCP is most safe and effective when it is performed by a gastroenterologist who has extensive training and experience in the procedure. As with any procedure, there are certain side effects associated with ERCP, and having the most qualified doctor perform the procedure can minimize that risk. Additionally, having the procedure performed by a GI doctor at a full-service center means that any and all identified GI conditions can be treated by one doctor, in one place. This produces greater efficiency as well as continuity of care, both of which are associated with better care and better outcomes. 

If you have symptoms of a bile duct problem or a pancreatic problem, it is important to schedule a consultation with a trusted gastroenterologist. Dr. Andrew Nelson, one of the 17 board certified gastroenterologists at Gastroenterology Associates, specializes in ERCP and meets with patients who self-refer or are referred by their physician for the procedure. To schedule your consultation today, please click below and enter your information.

 Why should I visit a gastroenterologist

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Topics: Common Stomach Problems, Pancreas, Gallbladder

Gallstones: What Are They & What Causes Them?

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Sun, Dec 08, 2013 @ 12:57 PM

gallbladder baton rougeGallstones are a digestive condition in which hard deposits of a digestive fluid known as bile develop in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small organ located on the right side of the abdomen, near the liver. It's responsible for holding bile, used in the digestion of fat, that is produced by the liver, and releasing bile as needed. Gallstones vary considerably in their size and number; symptoms also vary.

About Gallstones

Gallstones are composed of various substances found in bile, including cholesterol. Some gallstones are small, only the size of a grain of sand, while others are as big as a ping-pong ball. Some people have only a single gallstone, while others end up with several.

The majority of cases are asymptomatic, meaning that many people have gallstones without ever even realizing it. However, symptoms will develop if one of the stones blocks a duct through which bile normally passes. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the upper right abdomen, or in the upper right back or shoulder blades. Pain may either be constant or ebb and flow, and it can vary from mild to severe.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Fever and chills.
  • Yellow skin or whites of the eyes.

Sudden, severe pain in the chest or belly can also be a sign of a heart attack, so it's important to seek prompt medical treatment if you have unexplained pain in that area.

To determine the cause of your symptoms, your doctor will use medical imaging on the gallbladder. Ultrasound imaging can usually reveal gallstones, but sometimes it may also be necessary to use a gallstone scan, in which a dye is injected into your veins, and an x-ray is used to see how it moves through your gallbladder and the associated ducts.  Other tests may be needed if gallbladder dysfunction is suspected, even after normal ultrasound.

Causes & Risk Factors

Doctors believe that most gallstones form when the contents of bile are imbalanced. The most common cause is an excess of cholesterol in the bile, resulting in cholesterol gallstones. An excess of bilirubin, a substance produced when the body breaks down red blood cells, can cause pigment gallstones. They can also develop if the gallbladder doesn't empty completely, resulting in concentrated bile.

Anyone can get gallstones, but certain factors put you at a higher risk of developing this condition, including:

  • High-fat diet
  • High-cholesterol diet
  • Low-fiber diet
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Losing weight very quickly
  • Being female
  • Being over 60 years old
  • Family history of the condition
  • Taking certain medications, including some cholesterol-lowering medications and some estrogen-containing medications


People who have no symptoms from their gallstones don't need treatment. If you have only had one mild gallstone attack, your doctor might recommend that you take pain medication and wait for it to pass.

People who have severe symptoms or more than one gallstone attack should have the gallbladder removed. The gallbladder is not an essential organ; after its removal, the liver simply deposits bile directly into the intestines. This can sometimes cause small changes in the way you digest foods, especially very fatty foods. However, the changes are normally mild and might not even be noticed by you.

Patients who cannot have gallbladder surgery, such as those with other serious health problems, may be treated with medication. However, medication is slow-acting and not as effective, so surgery is preferred in most cases.  Also, if you have digestive problems such as diarrhea with certain foods after your gallbladder has been removed, there are effective medications that can help this problem.

If you think you might have gallstones, it's important to get diagnosis and treatment. To schedule a consultation today, please contact one of the doctors at Gastroenterology Associates at (225) 927-1190.

Why should I visit a gastroenterologist

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Topics: Gallbladder