Is it safe to have gallbladder surgery during pregnancy?

It is certainly not advisable to undergo gall bladder surgery, or in fact any other kind of surgery when you are pregnant. However, if you have already tried other approaches to solve your gall bladder problem and they have been unsuccessful, then there may be no choice.

You have not mentioned exactly what gall bladder problem you have been suffering from, but conditions such as gall stones and calcification of the gall bladder (commonly known as porcelain bladder) can be quite painful, and can interfere with normal day to day functioning, making surgery necessary in spite of a pregnancy. If you have cancer of the gall bladder, then surgery is probably an urgent requirement. This is a rare but extremely dangerous cancer, primarily because it tends to be asymptomatic, and is therefore rarely detected till it has spread. Delaying the removal of the gall bladder is therefore not advisable, no matter what the reasons. With porcelain bladder too, surgery is the only option, as there is no other viable treatment for the calcification of the bladder. However, if possible, the surgery should be delayed until after the baby has been delivered.

The most common problem related to the gall bladder is probably gall stones, and this can often be solved using other measures. However, the problem is that these measures too are not entirely safe during pregnancy. One way in which gall stones may be treated is through administration of ursodeoxycholic acid, also known as ursodiol, which is essentially a bile acid. Normally, ursodiol makes up a tiny percentage of total bile acids, and by increasing the amount of ursodiol, gall stones are often dissolved. However, this treatment may need to be continued for several months, and possibly over a year, before it is effective. More importantly, it is generally not advisable to use ursodiol when pregnant or lactating, although there have been no known cases of the treatment causing harm to the fetus or the newborn.

With surgery, there is certainly the risk of going into labor prematurely, and there could also be a miscarriage. In addition, anesthetics, antibiotics, and other medications required during and after the surgery may also harm the fetus. However, the surgeon usually considers the fact that the patient is pregnant and does not use any medications that are contraindicated during pregnancy. In addition, the risk of complications is usually thought to be much less after the first trimester. You should therefore discuss these concerns with your doctor and only then take a decision.

answered by M W

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