Tuesday, February 2, 2010

When Gallstones Attack

Since it's 4 AM and I'm going to be awake for the next hour or two, I might as well update y'all on what's been going on with me.

I'm awake right now because I'm having my third gallstone attack. It's this sharp, crampy pain in my upper right side. If this attack goes anything like the first two, it will get increasingly painful over the next hour, stay like that for a while, then gradually resolve itself. What's happening is the gallstones in my gallbladder got agitated around in there, and are moving in and out of the various tubes in the area, causing pain as they do so.

As long as the gallstones don't get stuck anywhere, my only symptom will be pain. If they do get stuck and block something, then I could develop a fever, nausea, and other fun things that would make this more of an emergency situation. I'm hoping it's just pain for the next few hours. :( I've taken ibuprofen for pain management and am being (hyper)vigilant about any more serious symptoms.

Apparently, gallstones don't dissolve themselves over time, nor is medication very effective at breaking them up. I've read that if you have only a few small stones, lithotripsy can bombard them with strong acoustic pulses to break them up. ("The final power level usually depends on the patient's pain threshold" — oh great...) But that method is often ineffective at preventing gallstone recurrence.

Otherwise, the other primary options are gallbladder removal and the restricted-diet-and-cross-my-fingers approach. I don't particularly like the idea of surgery, even laparoscopic surgery... but then I don't like playing Russian roulette with my health, either. Even religiously following a fat-restricted diet does not guarantee that I'll have no more attacks, it merely decreases the likelihood of their frequency.

Wednesday I have an appointment with a surgeon to discuss options and get his recommendation for my particular case. I'll keep you guys informed.

Update, 7:22 AM: Pain's gotten worse, not better. Still no nausea, fever (subjective judgement; can't find thermometer), or other worrying symptoms. But this pain sucks. I've been writhing on the couch for the past three hours. Doctor instructed me over the phone to take two more ibuprofen and two Tylenol. She said if it didn't get better, it means the bile ducts may not be opening back up... which would mean emergency open surgery, not the "friendly" laparoscopic surgery. Fuck. (Sorry, Mom; but sometimes it's appropriate, eh? ;))

Update, 2:12 PM: The ibuprofen + Tylenol combo helped enough that I fell asleep from 7:30 until 10 AM. It was still hurting then, but in a very manageable, beginning-of-the-end sort of way. I felt maybe 70% better. I moved from the couch back to bed then, and slept until 2 PM. I feel 90% better now; there's still some twinge of discomfort going on, but I'd no longer describe it as "pain."

So it looks like I've escaped the emergency scalpel, but let me tell you, I'll be all ears when I talk to the surgeon tomorrow.


smanoli said...

I'm sorry, I hope you get better and don't need emergency surgery.