The gallbladder, a sac-like organ that lies beneath the liver, is responsible for storing bile, a chemical that breaks down the fat in foods. Gallbladder problems may develop, which can lead to gallbladder perforation, or rupture. Stones may develop inside the gallbladder or tubes leading from the gallbladder to the intestine or the gallbladder may become infected. The University of Maryland Medical Center estimates about 10 percent of people with a damaged gallbladder experience rupture. Gallbladder rupture is life-threatening, and symptoms warrant immediate medical attention.
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A person with gallbladder disease may experience pain in the upper abdomen. Pain may be felt near the ribcage and may radiate to the upper back between the shoulder blades or to the right shoulder or arm. Gallbladder-related pain is generally sharp, nagging and persistent. A person may have increased pain when inhaling. Pain or tenderness may increase over the abdominal area when touched.
The University of Maryland Medical Center states that gallbladder rupture may change the severity of pain. A ruptured gallbladder may reduce pain, misleading the person into thinking his symptoms are getting better. Pain may be reduced for a while; however, may return in severity as bile from the ruptured gallbladder leaks out into the abdominal cavity. Abdominal distention, or swelling, may occur as well.
Gallbladder rupture can cause shock--a disruption of the body’s ability to maintain normal function. Infection inside the abdominal cavity from a ruptured gallbladder may cause symptoms of septic shock. A person may experience low blood pressure, a rapid pulse rate or heart palpitations. She may also feel dizzy or lightheaded as well as agitated or anxious. Skin may feel cool to the touch, especially on the hands and feet. Septic shock requires immediate care to prevent serious health complications or death.
Gallbladder perforation may cause nausea. A person with this condition may have a reduced appetite or aversion to food but may feel thirsty. Urine output may decrease or stop altogether; urine that is produced may appear cloudy or dark. Additionally, a person may experience diarrhea or alternately, the sudden inability to pass gas or stool, according to MayoClinic.com.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Gallstones and Gallbladder Disease
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Peritonitis: Secondary
- MayoClinic.com: Peritonitis
- Journal of Medical Case Reports: Delayed presentation of an isolated gallbladder rupture following blunt abdominal trauma: a case report