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What Is Gallbladder Sludge?

The buildup of solids within the gallbladder is referred to as gallbladder sludge.
Pregnant women are more susceptible to developing gallbladder sludge.
Gallbladder sludge can cause severe pain on the right side of the abdomen, just under the rib cage.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2014
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Gallbladder sludge is a buildup of particles and mucus that can occur in the gallbladder over time. In some people, the appearance of sludge causes no health problems, while others may experience complications, and in some cases, this material contributes to the development of gallstones. Patients who do experience symptoms as a result of the buildup may be asked to consider a cholecystectomy, a surgical procedure in which the gallbladder is removed, to prevent the onset of more serious symptoms.

The gallbladder is an organ nestled just below the liver. The liver secretes bile, which flows into the gallbladder and becomes concentrated. After a meal, the gallbladder pushes the concentrated bile into the digestive tract to help the body digest. The bile is key in the digestion of fats, but it also contributes to the digestion of other food components.

In some individuals, as the bile becomes concentrated, sludge also builds up in the gallbladder. The sludge classically includes particles of sodium, calcium, and cholesterol crystals, and it may include other particulate matter as well. Individuals who experience rapid weight loss are more prone to developing sludge, as are pregnant women and people taking certain medications.

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If this material becomes a problem, the patient will experience abdominal pain in the upper right quadrant. He or she may also experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and the symptoms may grow progressively worse over time. The gallbladder sludge can show up in tests and medical imaging studies, and a healthcare professional can decide what the best approach to treatment might be. Often, the recommendation is a cholecystectomy to take the gallbladder out altogether, thereby neatly bypassing the problem.

People may also hear this buildup referred to as biliary sludge. Some medical professional may recommend dietary measures to manage the sludge, or medications that can help to break up the particles and allow them to pass through the bile duct. In patients for whom cholecystectomy is not recommended, a healthcare professional may request regular follow-up visits to monitor the health of the gallbladder and to confirm that the sludge is not developing into a problem.

Patients may want to be aware that it sometimes takes time to pin down gallbladder sludge as the source of a problem. Abdominal pain can be caused by a number of medical problems, and medical professionals will want to take the time to make sure that the diagnosis is accurate and the treatment is appropriate.

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anon302457
Post 4

@FirstViolin: The best diagnosis will occur with a CT scan accompanied by an Ultrasound.

As for alternative treatments, I've been looking into the "liver detox" approach, which involves several days of drinking only apple juice and then doing a 'flush' that includes epsom salts, olive oil, and lemon juice.

Do a search and read up on this for yourself. I'm looking into it as alternative to surgery (I am experiencing severe attacks, diagnosed as Biliary Colic, and confirmed sludge via ultrasound).

FirstViolin
Post 3

How can I tell if my gallbladder pain is caused by gallbladder sludge or by a gallbladder attack?

I've been having a lot of nausea and pain, but I'm not sure what the cause is -- I don't think I have gallbladder stones, but I'm not sure.

Does anybody have any advice?

Charlie89
Post 2

@TunaLine -- There are some home remedies for gallbladder sludge, but most of them are temporary measures.

One is to follow a good gallbladder diet. This involves avoiding saturated fats, pork, eggs, citrus fruits and nuts.

Many people say that eating several small meals throughout the day helps too, because it allows your gallbladder to work in short spurts, rather than over an extended period of time.

Eating fewer calories is said to help too.

However, if your doctor is talking about surgery, it seems that it may be the best way to go -- do you have gallbladder stones in addition to the sludge?

You can ask him to prescribe a ursodeoxycholic acid medication, but you may want to listen to his advice and take the surgery, particularly if you have multiple gallbladder problems.

TunaLine
Post 1

What is a good gallbladder sludge treatment? My doctor is talking surgery, and I'd really rather avoid that if I can!

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