Chestpain not a heart attack -- could be gallstones?

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  1. Mighty Mom profile image77
    Mighty Momposted 13 years ago

    Hello hubber friends.
    I've been offline a few days because I had a health scare.
    I had chest pain and nausea and thought I was having a heart attack. I've read enough about heart disease being the #1 killer of women and how we have different symptoms than men, etc.

    The good news: No cardiac event. Yay!
    The strange news: The ER doctor listened to my description of intermittent pain right at my breastbone and guessed immediately that my gallbladder was the culprit.
    Sure enough, ultrasound revealed quite a few stones.

    Anyone been through gallbladder removal surgery?
    I'm not looking for horror stories (although I'm sure some exist). But any words of advice, precaution, and/or support most welcome.

    Thanks! MM

    1. Writer David profile image62
      Writer Davidposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      I had gallbladder surgery in October of 2010.  It was an emergency surgery for me.  I ignored the pain in the pit of my stomach for about six months.  I basically diagnosed my own pain by saying it was simply stomach ulcers (which runs rampant in my family).  I was within 24-36 hours of my gallbladder bursting.  Doctor told me the gallbladder was filled with gangrene.  If it had burst and sprayed the gangrene on my internal organs....I would not be here today.  All this was my own stupid fault.  I am glad to see you taking your pain seriously. 

      I have a hub on the entire experience if you are interested in reading it.

    2. Marisa Wright profile image84
      Marisa Wrightposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      My mother-in-law went through it at age 70, no problems at all.  Make sure they're doing it via laparoscopy (spelling?) not the old-fashioned way.

      The biggest thing you'll face is AFTER surgery, because the gall bladder is the organ that enables you to digest fat.  So once you lose it, you may have difficulty digesting fat and will have to modify your diet to avoid it.  Some patients have a lot of trouble with digestion after the op.

      This thread is quite interesting: … p?t=533263

    3. healinghands1668 profile image65
      healinghands1668posted 12 years agoin reply to this

      I wonder if the chest pain was a case of referred pain?

      Internal organs, if I remember my physiology properly, do not have nerve endings, so when they are in distress, they tend to refer pain into the nearest muscle or nerve bundle, which is why a myocardial infarction (heart attack) can often cause pain in the left arm.

  2. knolyourself profile image60
    knolyourselfposted 13 years ago

    I get it now and then from sinus or allergy
    condition depending on what is floating around in the air. Feels like a heart attack. But I feel around it seems more on the outside of the rib cage. I've never worried about it.

  3. earnestshub profile image79
    earnestshubposted 13 years ago

    Well MM that is fairly good news. smile I am happy it was not your heart.

    I don't know the first thing about gallstone removal in women, but I will make the assumption that pain management and procedures will have come a long way since the horror story days.

    Someone here will be able to do more than just wish you well, so I think it was a good idea to post. smile
    Love and best wishes,

  4. DIYweddingplanner profile image75
    DIYweddingplannerposted 13 years ago

    My sister went through gall bladder surgery with flying colors, MM, so don't worry. Glad you're OK and it was something simpler than a heart attack...and the fun part is they'll give you your creepy little gallstones in a jar to save for eternity! smile

    1. Mighty Mom profile image77
      Mighty Momposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Thanks all for your words of encouragment.
      So far no reason to approach this with fear.
      It is a lapyroscopy (sp) procedure, which I've had twice before. Not sure about recovery time. Hopefully minimal. But my laptop sits on my lap -- not my chest. So that will be good!!

      Do they really give you your gallstones in a jar?
      I should keep mine in the fridge as a reminder of what happens when you eat TOO MUCH FAT!! (besides the obvious, that is!)

      I really appreciate the support from hubber friends.
      Just waiting for the first person (I have my predictions as to who it will be, too) who makes a crack about me having a lot of gall. lol

  5. profile image0
    Muldanianmanposted 13 years ago

    Will you be having keyhole or traditional surgery?  My mom had her gallstones removed some years ago, and had the traditional sort, which took some time to recover from.  However another woman at the same time had keyhole surgery and had very little problems and was up and back to normal in a matter of days.

    1. Mighty Mom profile image77
      Mighty Momposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Muldanianman -- Not sure if keystone surgery is the same as what they've told me, but what the doctor described is they make very small incisions, it's day surgery, and the recovery time is not weeks, but days.
      Maybe I should tell them that as long as they're in there to take the appendix too -- precautionary measures. And how about those tonsils? More unneeded anatomy just waiting to cause havoc.
      Take them all....!!!

  6. TheSenior profile image60
    TheSeniorposted 13 years ago

    As far as symptions of a gall bladder attack being symtamatic of a heart attack hmmmmmmmm?

    A friend of mine went thru gall bladder surgery - the surgery in itself is not bad, however recovery does take some time and it means that you must limit your intake of fried foods. The gall bladder did that for you, now with it gone your food for the first few months must be on the healty/bland side - And if you do eat anything grease, Be prepared.

    Remember the gall bladder is not there just to take up space - it does have it's function and that function is a cleansing organ - losing it means you must have a better diet.

  7. prettydarkhorse profile image63
    prettydarkhorseposted 13 years ago

    I can't help Mighty Mom, I am just glad that it is not heart attack, as I presume it is more difficult than gall bladder prob?? I wish you well.

  8. Stacie L profile image87
    Stacie Lposted 13 years ago

    are you sure you need surgery and not a different course of action..did you get a second opinion?
    gall bladder removal does not stop the symptoms..

  9. Mighty Mom profile image77
    Mighty Momposted 13 years ago

    No second opinion yet. Just the ER doctor, followed by a more extensive ultrasound that confirmed his diagnosis.
    There are a LOT of stones in there. I saw them.
    From what I have read, the drugs for gallstones are not very effective.
    I see the surgeon this week.
    Yes, the surgery will be via laparascopy. I've had that kind of surgery twice so know what to expect. Although not in my upper abdomen before.
    Marissa -- Interesting point. The doctor told me I will digest fat better after the surgery, but that doesn't really make sense. I've already modified my diet to extremely low fat.
    But if I have to forego fat, so be it. I've consumed more than enough in the last few years to last me forever. Gotta stop!
    Writer David. I am going to check your hub out right now.

  10. profile image50
    pleasure11posted 13 years ago

    All kind of chest pains are not heart attack.I can happen for cold and flue also.But where the heart matters ,we must take care of it.Because its the only that bits for life.Don't you think?

  11. Lisa HW profile image62
    Lisa HWposted 13 years ago

    Oh.  Your story rings a big bell for me.  (This isn't a horror story, but it's just to share how mistakes in diagnosis can take place.  All was great in the end.)  My mother (years ago) went through a whole Summer having chest pains, being sick, and being tested for heart stuff.  She was put on angina medication for it, and that made her really sick.  That whole summer I kept saying to her, "Has he ruled out gall stones?  Those symptoms are the same as gall stones."  She kept saying the doctor said it was angina, and she was in worse and worse pain and sickness as the weeks/months wore on.  It was horrible.  (Of course, on the one hand, it was normal for her to listen to her doctor and not let "some know-it-all daughter without a medical degree" (my words, not hers - but I'm guessing her thoughts, though  lol) second-guess her doctor's diagnosis.  Still, I'd known other people with gall stones and had also read up on them when my mother first complained of pain attacks, and there was something about the whole picture that just seemed wrong to me (as far as how quickly she was diagnosed with angina went).

    Shortly after Labor Day she called to tell me she was really, really, in horrible pain and looked yellow.  When I got there she was completely jaundiced, with yellow eyes too.  It was like being hit in the face with the confirmation that what I'd suspected all along had been right.

    At the hospital she had her gall bladder out as immediately as possible, and it turned out a bunch of stones had worked their way up toward the duct.  The surgery was done (no thanks to that doctor) just in time, and she bounced back from it fairly quickly.  She was in her early 70's at the time.  The jaundice disappeared immediately, and all the post-operative stuff that's supposed to get up and running did, without any problems. 

    My mother wasn't a big one for eating a lot of fat, so she didn't really see any difference after having her gall bladder out.  Her "thing" was to treat herself to a hot dog on a grilled roll, and french fries, from a pizza place when she shopped on Saturdays.  Apparently, those things didn't bother her.  The rest of time she didn't eat much fat, but she didn't have a limited diet either.

    A better (sort of) story might be an in-law of mine (68 at the time) who had emergency gall bladder surgery when his gall bladder became so infected it was said to be "dead".  He had the emergency surgery and has been fine now since then.  This is someone who has been known to eat the occasion high-fat meal, and for awhile after surgery he'd find that if he forgot and ate some things he didn't feel great afterward.

    I guess my points here are:

    a) You're not alone with the question of heart symptoms turning out to be a gall bladder problem (so I shared my mother's story so other people will know of yet one more case when that kind of thing happened).

    b) It's great to get rid of the stones and/or gall bladder before things get more complicated.  (But, based on just the two examples I know of, it seems to me that even complicated situations can fairly easily be cleared up with the surgery - and that's one of my points, I guess).  Good luck with getting the whole problem fixed up with the surgery. It'll be one of those "good job done" things once it's over.   smile

  12. Nadeeshan301 profile image66
    Nadeeshan301posted 12 years ago

    Dear MM,
    Hope you are back at home after the surgery as usually cholecystectomy (removal of the gall bladder) is carried out after 6 weeks from the initial event. The surgery is with minimal risks and if performed laparoscopically, you should be able to get back to the normal routine very quickly.
    However, a tube known as T-tube is usually inserted at the cholecystectomy and it takes at least 1 week post-op to remove the tube.

  13. Mighty Mom profile image77
    Mighty Momposted 12 years ago

    Exactly so.
    Apparently pain in the middle of the chest right behind the breastbone is CLASSIC gallbladder pain. Who knew?

    I wonder if "referred pain" is also at work when we carry stress in different parts of our bodies? Some people get tense shoulders, some hold stress in their gut. It's definitely painful, that's for sure.
    Maybe I will go research and write a hub. Thanks for the idea healinghands!

  14. KCC Big Country profile image84
    KCC Big Countryposted 12 years ago

    I see MM's original post was 2 months ago....not sure if she's had the surgery by now.....but.....

    I had my gallbladder removed ten years ago.  It was supposed to be a laparoscopic surgery, but once he had made all of the incisions (4 I think) he found he still couldn't really reach the gallbladder like he wanted so he had to do it the old fashioned way with the long incision. 

    Healing time was back to the traditional 6 wks instead of a week or two.

    One common thing I've found with people who have had their gallbladders removed is something some call "bile-induced diarrhea".  If you go too long without eating, you will have a cramping episode after eating that requires an urgent trip to the restroom.  Not everyone experiences this (my mother didn't), but almost everyone I've talked to about it has.

    Hope you're doing well, MM.

  15. healinghands1668 profile image65
    healinghands1668posted 12 years ago

    As a massage therapist most of what I know of referred pain is how it relates to muscles. Often muscles that are held in either a contracted or elongated state for too long develop "trigger points," which are nodules of tight muscle fibers--commonly known as knots--that refer pain into other muscles when compressed. Referred pain from trigger points in the neck and shoulders are the most common cause of muscle-tension headaches.


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