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What is Porcelain Gallbladder?

Gallstones are a common cause of the development of a porcelain gallbladder.
A CT scan may be performed to diagnose a porcelain gallbladder.
Women are more likely than men to suffer from a porcelain gallbladder, and may experience abdominal pain as a later symptom.
Gallbladder surgery may be required to treat a porcelain gallbladder.
A porcelain gallbladder occurs when the gallbladder wall has calcified to a hard texture.
A porcelain gallbladder may be visible on an abdominal X-ray that's taken for different reasons.
Pain from a porcelain gallbladder is often felt in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen.
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  • Originally Written By: S. Mithra
  • Revised By: Bott
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2014
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Porcelain gallbladder means the wall of the gallbladder has been calcified to a hard and bluish-white texture resembling porcelain ceramic. This medical condition primarily results from gallstones that chronically inflame the gallbladder; when many gallstones collect in the gallbladder, it becomes irritated or inflamed and causes calcification, or build up, that might necessitate surgery. Sometimes the gallstones can lead to a condition known as chronic cholecystitis, which can change the texture of the gallbladder wall, resulting in a porcelain appearance.

How the Gallbladder Works

To understand the process that creates porcelain gallbladder, it is best to first understand how this digestive organ works. The four inch (10 cm) gallbladder stores bile, a kind of acid, that digests fats found in food. The cystic duct transfers bile made in the liver to the gallbladder, and the gallbladder stores or passes along the right amount of bile through the common bile duct to the small intestine where the bile breaks down fat. When bile doesn't successfully break down fat, perhaps due to a high fat diet, the extra cholesterol can crystallize into gallstones.

Gallstones

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Even though they are tiny, gallstones can lodge in those ducts that carry bile and limit the flow of fluids. These stones are hard deposits that can range in size from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. A build up of gallstones can cause unhealthy blockages that end up inflaming or infecting the entire gallbladder, a condition called chronic cholecystitis. Over time, the wall and lining of the gallbladder thickens and hardens from the infection and inflammation, resulting in porcelain gallbladder.

Occurrences and Treatment

Women are five times more likely than men to suffer from this condition, even though the overall incidence in the general population is less than one percent. In 90 percent of the cases of porcelain gallbladder, calcification is the direct result of chronic cholecystitis, but medical experts still don't know exactly what causes it to occur. Since porcelain gallbladder has no early symptoms, it is usually detected by a CT scan, X-ray, or ultrasound being conducted for another reason where the porcelain gallbladder appears as a visible, dense sac beside the liver. Later symptoms include jaundice, abdominal pain, and vomiting at which point the condition is usually detected by a health care professional.

So far, the recommended treatment for this condition is to remove the entire gallbladder in order to reduce the risk of developing cancer of the gallbladder. Researchers are still investigating the relationship between porcelain gallbladder and the increased risk of gallbladder cancer, as studies have shown that the two are not as closely related as it was previously believed.

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anon351983
Post 13

My dad had colon cancer surgery yesterday and when the doctor came out to tell me the results, he said they had to remove the gallbladder because it wasn't working and it was considered a porcelain gallbladder. Surgery was supposed to last one and a half hours. Almost four hours later is when he came out of the surgery.

anon337302
Post 12

What does a white gallbladder mean?

anon257034
Post 11

My wife had her gall bladder removed yesterday after a couple weeks of pain and loss of breath.

The initial ultrasound indicated no stones, but sludge. After the surgery, the surgeon explained that she had a white webbing around the gall bladder, which is a symptom of infection and the body was trying to isolate the gall bladder from the rest of the body: porcelain gallbladder. Best to have it removed and just move on. By the way, this was misdiagnosed by other doctors as diverticulitis (pockets in the lower intestine).

anon191703
Post 10

I had pain for five years that felt like a spear going in my shoulder blade and out my ribs. I am female age 42 and very thin, so I was told many times it was unlikely that it was my gallbladder. I was sent to physical therapy, which made me feel worse. Finally after a banquet with fried chicken (which I rarely eat fried foods) I couldn't stand the pain any more.

I went to a new doc and she ordered a HIDA scan that showed 15 percent function, and I had surgery a few weeks later. The surgeon said it was very porcelain and needed to be out. There was no cancer when checked.

When I woke up from the laparoscopic surgery I felt like a big sticker had been removed and actually felt better! I didn't even take pain killers after all the years of the pain, what was a few little cuts on my stomach? I have a little phantom pain usually diet related once in a while, but definitely felt a lot better after the GB was removed.

anon185967
Post 9

I have been diagnosed with porcelain gallbladder. But the docs just say it's because it has calcification around it, and it has to come out. Anyone ever had a "porcelain gallbladder" and not had it removed? If so, what, if anything, happened and how long since you were diagnosed, and are you having any problems now? I am scared to have surgery. But, all the docs keep saying is "remove" it. I keep waiting for one who says "just leave it in, it isn't hurting anyone." I have no symptoms what so ever, but I am also afraid of the cancer risk, which I read isn't as high as the doctors are saying they are. But, I guess better safe than sorry.

anon124610
Post 8

I just found out that I have a porcelain gallbladder. I scheduled to see a surgeon next week. Thank you for the post that the surgery is not that bad. I'm terrified!! I've never had surgery. --Valerie

anon86781
Post 7

I had my gallbladder removed about a year ago. I don't know if it was considered "porcelain" but the hospital found several gallstones at different times and the pain beforehand was excruciating. If you have gall stones the pain is horrible, but the surgery is nothing.

anon64444
Post 6

I found out about six weeks ago that I had a porcelain gall bladder. I had no idea what caused it until I started reading about it. I had mine removed a week ago and the pathology report was negative, thank God. I definitely need to start watching my fats so I don't end up with more stones.

anon56729
Post 5

I've just been diagnosed with a porcelain gallbladder. My doctor is talking to a surgeon but I have emphysema and a surgery would compromise my lungs. Suggestions?

anon55664
Post 4

I have just been diagnosed with a porcelain gallbladder - it was a fluke that they found it, they were doing a renal scan. I have had no symptoms or pain, but they want to remove it.

I guess that is better than worrying that it might turn to cancer!

anon28821
Post 2

hi i'm jutine, i have had a porcelain gallbladder removed and it wasn't painful at all, though the stress of not knowing if it had cancer in it is what really scared me. i recommend you take care of your body and if you have found any gallstones remove them to bring the risk of porcelain gallbladder down.

cynthia
Post 1

this is the first time I have heard about porcelain gallbladder. But, I have had discomfort which I've described to my doctor as feeling like something hard around the area of my liver, especially noticeable when I've been laying on my back during exercise. Could this be an indication of porcelain gallbladder?

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