Incontinence after Gallbladder Surgery

Gallbladder surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures performed in the U.S. today, with more than 700,000 procedures taking place each year. While the vast majority of patients experience no postoperative complications or changes, a small percentage may develop symptoms of fecal incontinence after gallbladder surgery which can range from occasional minor bowel leakage to more significant loss of bowel control. Symptoms can develop soon after surgery; other times, they may not appear until months afterward or longer.

What Is A Gallbladder?

The gallbladder is a small four-inch organ that is located under the liver in the upper-right section of one’s abdomen. The gallbladder concentrates and stores bile, a digestive fluid produced by the liver. 

What Does Your Gallbladder Do?

Your gallbladder acts as a reservoir for bile, a digestive acid produced by your liver. During digestion, your gallbladder delivers bile to the small intestine, through a small duct known as the common bile duct, in varying amounts depending on the food that’s being digested. This helps digest fats more effectively. 

What is Gallbladder Surgery?

Gallbladder surgery, also known as a cholecystectomy, is a common surgery that can be performed both as an outpatient or inpatient. The surgery most normally includes inserting a small camera and special surgical tools through small incisions to peer inside one’s abdomen and remove the gallbladder.

Why Is Gallbladder Removal Necessary?

Gallbladder removal is most commonly necessary to treat gallstones and any issues that they may cause. A doctor may recommend gallbladder removal if you are experiencing one of the following:

  • Pancreas inflammation due to gallstones
  • Gallstones in the gallbladder or bile duct
  • Gallbladder inflammation

Gallbladder Removal Side Effects

Incontinence or other side effects can be a concern for some after they have undergone gallbladder removal. Below we have listed a number of side effects in bowel movements after gallbladder removal that one may experience.

Bowel Incontinence After Gallbladder Removal

Once the gallbladder is removed, some may notice an increase in mucus in their stool after the gallbladder removal. This is due to an increased amount of bile being delivered directly to the small intestine. This bile can act as a laxative resulting in increased bowel movements or bowel leakage after gallbladder surgery due to looser stools that are harder for your body to control. These symptoms resolve by themselves over time, but other times, they may persist.

Yellow Diarrhea or Smelly Bowels After Gallbladder Removal

Some people may experience yellow diarrhea or smelly poop after gallbladder removal. The larger amounts of bile reaching the colon may cause irritation resulting in diarrhea with a yellow hue. The increased amounts of bile salt can also make one’s bowel movements have a more potent smell as well. As your body adjusts after the gallbladder removal, these usually go away in a few weeks. If it continues to persist, consulting your doctor would be recommended.

Urinary Incontinence After Gallbladder Surgery

Some people report experiencing urinary incontinence after gallbladder removal. However, the reason for this was stress, aptly known as stress urinary incontinence, from the procedure. This is a common type of urinary incontinence and consulting your doctor about treatment plans is recommended.

Gallbladder Surgery Recovery and Incontinence Treatment Options

The first step towards successful recovery from gallbladder surgery and any resulting incontinence issues is reaching out to a physician for a consultation to help put you on the path leading to a happier, more confident life.

For many, changing one’s behavior can help treat these incontinence issues. Some examples of such changes are listed below:

  • Diet Modification – Changing what one eats to increase fiber intake and fluid consumption.
  • Increase Bowel Habits – Making sure one drinks plenty of liquids, gets proper exercise, and allowing their body regular bowel movements can help.
  • Physical Therapy – In some cases, attending physical therapy can help treat fecal incontinence.

Other non-invasive procedures to help with incontinence resulting from gallbladder removal are:

  • Medications – It is recommended one speaks with a physician about medications that can help with their unique situation.
  • Biofeedback Therapy – This therapy is a painless, personalized method to help the patient learn how to control their muscles.

Fecal incontinence can cause significant embarrassment, anxiety and even depression, but the good news is, today there are lots of treatments that can be used to control symptoms,.

Studies have shown many people with fecal incontinence are too embarrassed to speak to their doctor about their symptoms. As a result, they live with unnecessary shame and inconvenience. If you suffer from fecal incontinence, remember: your doctor has heard it all before.

Make an appointment with an Incontinence Institute physician today for an evaluation so you can start leading a happier, more confident life.