Gall Bladder Polyps – What Are They?


It is commonly known that women who have had children and those who are pregnant are prone to gall stones. Gall bladder polyps, however, are less widely known.

Not to confuse polyps with stones– a polyp is a growth protruding from the lining of the gall bladder and is also referred to as a “tumor.” These polyps may be cancerous, but usually are benign.

Gall bladder polyps that are less than one centimeter are most often benign, that is not cancerous. Malignant (or cancerous) polyps of the gall bladder are much more likely to be larger than one centimeter. Noncancerous polyps usually require no treatment. Doctors often suggest follow-up examinations in the case of such likely noncancerous, smaller polyps in order to evaluate the gall bladder for changes that could be an indication of cancer. These follow-ups are generally done with the use of ultrasound.

The odds are much greater that the gall bladder polyps larger than one centimeter are cancerous, and in such cases, doctors recommend the surgical removal of the gall bladder-the medical term for which is cholecystectomy. The likelihood of cancer increases with the size of the polyp. A cholecystectomy is also indicated in cases where both gall stones and polyps are present. The presence of both polyps and stones in the gall bladder signals a greater risk for cancer.

Upon medical examination of these polyps, it has been found that benign polyps are formed of cholesterol and tissue-either muscle or inflammatory. Those that are malignant are adenomatous polyps, one centimeter or larger, similar to cancerous colon polyps.

It is rare that polyps in the gall bladder lead to symptoms. In cases where a patient with polyps does manifest symptoms such as abdominal pain, this usually leads to their discovery by ultrasound examination. The patient with his physician must make a treatment decision. Because it is not possible to discern which type of polyps are present without surgery and the pain is usually caused by stones, surgery is likely indicated.

A new wonder of medical science is now an option for most people who are suffering with gall bladder symptoms. This is laparoscopic surgery. Laparoscopic gall bladder surgery employs several small incisions in the abdomen and the inflation of the abdomen with air to allow the surgeon to view the gall bladder clearly. One incision close to the navel is the portal for a lighted scope attachment to a video camera– the laparoscope. A video monitor is used to guide the surgeon while surgical instruments are inserted into the other incisions to remove the gall bladder.

This surgery is the best choice in most cases for these reasons:

  • It is generally both safe and effective.
  • It can be done on an outpatient basis or with a short hospital stay.
  • There is a decreased risk that is associated with open surgery.

Some conditions indicate open surgery as the better option. These may be:

  • Severe inflammation or infection of the bile ducts or abdominal lining.
  • Being in the third trimester of pregnancy.
  • Scar tissue from previous abdominal surgeries.

The pros and cons are specific to each individual, but for many people, this treatment option has decreased risk, pain and recuperation time– another advancement of medical science.