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What are Gallbladder Polyps?

By Amy Hunter
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Gallbladder polyps are a condition that affect up to five percent of adults. They often develop in people that also suffer from gallstones. The cause of these polyps is not known, but they are more common in people that are older and in men. Often, gallbladder polyps do not cause any symptoms and are only discovered during a medical examination.

Many people are concerned that gallbladder polyps are cancerous, but this is not true. While some polyps can become malignant, most polyps, particularly small ones, are not. There are two risk factors that increase the likelihood of a polyp being cancerous. The first is the size. A polyp that is larger than one centimeter should be watched carefully for signs that it may become malignant.

Another concern are polyps that develop alongside other gallbladder diseases. Gallstone polyps that develop in people that have a condition known as primary sclerosing cholangitis have a higher risk of being malignant than polyps that develop on their own. A patient that has more than one gallstone condition will require careful monitoring by a physician.

The majority of gallbladder polyps are made up of excessive cholesterol in the lining of the gallbladder. These polyps are not dangerous and often don’t even produce symptoms. They are often diagnosed when a physician is performing an ultrasound for other reasons.

While most polyps are left in place, there are several conditions that may warrant their removal. If they are large, which is defined as larger than one centimeter, they are candidates for removal. Also, gallstone polyps that occur along with gallstones are removed when the gallbladder is removed. Some physicians remove the gallbladder in a patient who develops polyps after the age of 50. If the gallbladder polyps are small, the doctor may be able to remove them through laparoscopic surgery.

If polyps make it necessary to have your gallbladder removed, it may be necessary to alter your diet following surgery. The liver produces sufficient bile for the digestion process, even without the gallbladder. While the body is getting accustomed to digesting food without the gallbladder, you may experience more frequent and urgent bowel movements. Eliminating dairy, reducing fat intake and increasing your intake of fiber can help resolve this issue.

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Discussion Comments

By lownotes — On Mar 23, 2013

I am a 16 year old girl and for the past year and a half, I've been getting sharp, stabbing pains all across my abdomen and in my back and in my arms as well. My surgeon explained that it's very similar to the feeling of having a heart attack, but the pain is mostly on my right side, not my left.

I used to only get them about once every few months when they first started, but now they are multiple times almost daily. My mom took me to the doctor about a month ago and I got an ultrasound and they found three polyps on my gallbladder. One is 2 cm, one is 7 cm, and one is 8 cm.

I am scheduled for surgery in 10 days for laparoscopic cholecystectomy. They are removing my whole gallbladder and then dissecting it to study the polyps themselves. We have no idea what they are from and how they formed or whether they are benign or malignant yet. I am the opposite of the typical patient for gallbladder polyps. I am young and female and healthy.

Out of all of the research I've done, I can't find a single plausible explanation for this to happen. It scares me a lot and if anyone happens to know how or why this can happen then please share, I'm willing to listen.

By Planch — On Jul 31, 2010

Can anybody tell me about the side effects of gallbladder removal?

My husband has a large number of polyps on his gallbladder, and it's getting to the point where the doctor is talking about surgery.

He said that the best course of action may be to remove the gallbladder altogether, but that sounds really dangerous to me.

Does anybody know if removing a gallbladder is like removing an appendix, i.e., it doesn't really make that much difference, or whether there are side effects?


By galen84basc — On Jul 31, 2010

Fortunately, polyps in the gallbladder are usually not painful, and may not even require surgery.

Only in cases where the polyps are too numerous, or they grow large enough to warrant a risk to the gallbladder are they removed.

By rallenwriter — On Jul 31, 2010

@anon65824 -- Sorry to hear about your mother.

Some places with good info on gallbladder polyps include the Mayo clinic website, Webmd, or even a local support group.

Perhaps you could also ask your doctor to provide you with some resources.

He should be able to give you some literature on the subject and give you more information about the particular kind of polyps your mother has.

By anon65824 — On Feb 16, 2010

My mother is 62 years old and of late has been having abdominal uneasiness. When we did an ultrasound she was found to have erosive gastritis and polyps in gall bladder, too measuring about 6 to 7 mms. Now they are attached to the wall of the gall bladder and are not moving so the impression given in the report is calcified polyps.

The doctor says there's nothing to worry at the moment and we can wait and watch. Can someone tell me where I can get more information on this or how I can better deal with this? What tests etc need to be done further? I do not want her to be inconvenienced too much.

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