Q: I'm having pain in my right side after I eat. What's going on?
A: There are many things that can cause pain after eating, but one of the most common is gallbladder disease. The gallbladder can cause pain with or without having gallstones. The gallbladder is an egg-size organ that lies just under the liver in the right upper half of the abdomen. It does not make anything; it just stores bile that is made in the liver. When we eat a meal that contains fat, the gallbladder squeezes and sends its bile down a short duct system and into the intestines to mix with the fat so it can be absorbed. If a stone blocks the emptying of bile or if the gallbladder cannot empty for other reasons but has no stones present, the squeezing of the gallbladder causes pain. Over time, the gallbladder can become inflamed and possibly infected and will require removal. Typically, gallbladder removal is a laparoscopic operation, done with tiny incisions, and is an outpatient, day-surgery procedure. Your family physician can recommend a board-certified general surgeon. Don't forget: Holiday food is wonderful, but keep in mind that gallbladder symptoms can show up after having a big meal.
-- Dr. David C. Redd, general surgeon; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society
Readers: To submit a question for a medical doctor, e-mail it to Clint Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org. See this space each week for answers.