Dubai: In a record-breaking surgery, a surgeon at Al Zahra Hospital, Dubai, extracted a stone measuring 7cm from the gallbladder of a 52-year-old Iraqi expatriate woman. It was the largest-ever recorded evidence of a gallbladder stone in the UAE. What was commendable was that despite the massive size of the stone, the patient underwent the excision through a keyhole surgery and was able to recover in quick time.
Recounting the event, Dr Sabah Al Arnaout, specialist laparoscopic surgeon at the hospital, told Gulf News: “This was a very challenging case. The woman was in great pain and was brought to the Emergency at Al Zahra Hospital in early May, 2021. She also had fever and nausea. Screening revealed this massive stone, which was very surprising as gall bladder stones are usually 1-2mm in size.”
Dr Arnaout decided to wheel her to the operation theatre immediately as her pain was intolerable. If left untreated, it could have caused other complications. He added: “The case was challenging because it was very difficult to remove the stone in one piece through a keyhole surgery. The laparoscopy procedure allowed us to take the stone out without any major incision and the patient had a quick recovery. She was pain-free immediately and within weeks could lead a completely normal life.”
“I was shocked to see the mini rock that the doctor had removed from my gall bladder — all in one piece,” said MH, the patient. She added: “The size of the stone came as a complete shock to me. It was also surprising that the stone was removed in one piece, without the need for an open surgery. Once the stone was removed, I no longer felt any pain and my stomach instantly felt lighter. Throughout the whole procedure, the entire medical team was extremely supportive and they gave me the confidence to go through this journey without any fear.”
What are gallstones?
Gallstones are crystallised lumps of bile and other digestive fluids in the gallbladder. The liver produces bile and stores it in the gallbladder. Bile helps us digest food. Fatty and protein-rich food can result in high cholesterol and high uric acid levels in the body. The gallbladder contains cholesterol that helps process these. However, excess of cholesterol and uric acid trigger the formation of crystals of the digestive fluid. Usually people suffer from formation of several such crystals measuring 1-2mm. If the crystals are large in number then the gallbladder is usually taken out.
Dr Arnaout cautioned young people to be mindful about their diet and eat smaller portions of fatty and protein-rich food. “People these days have high consumption of red meat, fried food, sweets, alcohol and so on. Excessive unhealthy fat and purine are the main culprits, triggering crystallisation of the bile fluid. People must undergo regular screening and choose healthy and nutritious food to avoid formation of gallbladder stones, that are said to effect at least one in five people around the world.”
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He added that any abdominal pain should not be ignored. “It is essential to treat gallstones, due to the high-risk conditions that could occur if left untreated, which include sepsis, infections and even cancer — all of which can be life threatening,” Dr Arnaout explained.