Gallbladder is a pear shaped hollow sac which lies below the liver. It is an important organ in the body and stores bile juice. Gallbladder releases bile juice in the intestine for digestion of fatty food that we eat. Obstruction in the flow of bile juice from the gallbladder leads to various gallbladder problems. Rare congenital anomalies such as bi-lobed gallbladder, floating gallbladder or any other malposition of the gallbladder can also give rise to gallbladder problems.
Inflammation of gallbladder is known as cholecystitis. Gallbladder problems though uncommon in children are not rare as it is generally thought to be.Inflammation of the gallbladder due to various reasons may be categorized as gall bladder diseases.
Two types of gallbladder problems are generally detected in children. Inflammation of the gallbladder due to blockage of the bile caused by gallstones, it is also known as calculous cholecystitis. Second type cholecystitis results as a consequence of viral infection or bacterial infection such as typhoid fever. It is known as acalculous cholecystitis.
Gallbladder Stones In Children
Gallstones are infrequent in early life, but are more common than infection of the gallbladder. Gallstones have been reported even in stillborn fetuses.
Gallstones in childhood frequently develop as a complication of congenital hemolytic anemia in children and in Negroes it occurs as a consequence of sickle cell anemia.
These stones are mostly composed of pigment liberated as a result of destruction of the red blood cells. Calcium is deposited in some of the stones and therefore they may be visible on X-ray. A pure pigment stone may require a contrast dye for it to be detected on X-ray. Many times the gallstones in children remain undetected unless they cause pain or detected accidentally on sonogram or x-ray done for some other reason.
Gallbladder Disease In Children
Inflammation of gallbladder due to infection is uncommon, but may occur as a complication of virus disease or most often as a complication of typhoid. Clinical diagnosis is frequently missed since many other common diseases mimic to have similar symptoms in children. Newer radiological tools such as ultra sonogram and CT scan have made it easy to diagnose this condition in children.
Cholesterolosis is another gallbladder disease in children. It is caused when cholesterol gets deposited in the inner wall of the gallbladder. Usually the condition is more prevalent in adults, however in recent times it is increasingly appearing in girls attaining their puberty. Increased level of estrogen during this period is commonly blamed. Children with family history of inflammation of gallbladder are also at risk of suffering from this problem.
Symptoms Of Gallbladder Problems In Children
Most of the symptoms of gallbladder disease in children are similar to those seen in adults. Some of the important symptoms which need to be mentioned are:
- Pain: There maybe excruciating pain in the upper abdomen region, especially on the right side. The pain is often felt after the children eat their meals. Pain may radiate to the back and to the right shoulder blade. Pain lasts for 30 minutes to few hours and there may be recurrent episodes of pain.
- Vomiting: Vomiting, heartburn and nausea may be present with pain.
- Fever with chills: The fever may rise above 100 degrees F. Fever is accompanied with chills.
- Jaundice: When small gallstone obstructs the flow of bile juice, there is back flow of bile leading to yellow discoloration of skin, and sclera of the eye.
- There may be decreased appetite.
- Gas, burping and bloating of abdomen are other gallbladder problems in children.