University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) senior consultant surgeon Prof Dr Chin Kin Fah (pic) said those who were obese and aged over 40 were at a higher risk of suffering from gallstone problems, with women being twice as vulnerable as males.
“It can be life-threatening when complications set in,” he said in an interview with The Star.
He said people should watch their weight, diet and exercise frequently to reduce the risk of obesity that could lead to gallstone disease.
Usually, patients suffer severe pain in the upper right side of the abdomen and the pain can move to the back to the shoulder blade, he said.
“Those in pain are not able to find a position of comfort until the stones fall back into the gall bladder or the gall bladder is removed,” said Dr Chin.
The obstruction can lead to complications such as inflammation of the gall bladder, liver, biliary passage and/or pancreas while in some instances the stones may be associated with gallbladder cancer, he said.
Patients can suffer from high fever, fatigue, severe and constant pain and need morphine to relieve the pain, he said.
Dr Chin said that although the problem was common, affecting one in 10 adults, it is treatable.
The standard and established way to treat gallstone disease is by surgically removing the gall bladder together with the stones when it becomes dysfunctional after being repeatedly inflamed, he said.
Last year, UMMC began a single key-hole surgery for gallbladder removal, the first in the country to adopt the procedure, he said.
The single key-hole surgery costs more than the current four key-hole surgery but patients were happy that incision was created through the navel and did not leave any scars on their body, he said.
Dr Chin said using drugs and reducing fat intake did not work that well for those who already had gallstone disease.