Contracted Gallbladder-Diagnosis and Treatment

Contracted Gallbladder-Diagnosis and Treatment

A contracted gallbladder is a medical condition in which the gallbladder becomes smaller and harder. This condition is also known as gallbladder atrophy. This can happen for several reasons, but most often it is due to the build-up of cholesterol and other fatty deposits on the gallbladder walls.

The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ that stores the digesting fluid bile, which is made in the liver. When the gallbladder becomes contracted, it can no longer effectively store or release bile, which can lead to various digestive problems.

To fully understand what a contracted gallbladder means; it is important to first understand the function of the gallbladder.

The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ that is located just below the liver on the right side of the abdomen. The main function of the gallbladder is to store and concentrate bile, which is a yellow-greenish fluid that is produced by the liver. In the digestive process, bile is essential in the breakdown of lipids.

As food passes from the stomach into the small intestine, bile is secreted from the gallbladder to aid in the digestion of fatty and nutritional substances. An enzyme called bilirubin is used to remove cholesterol and damaged red blood cells.

Symptoms of a contracted gallbladder

The most common symptom of a contracted gallbladder is a pain in the upper right abdomen. This discomfort might be either a sudden, intense stab or a dull ache that comes and goes.

Other symptoms may include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • discomfort in the upper and middle back, or in the right shoulder
  • jaundice
  • bloating and gas
  • indigestion
  • diarrhea

The contraction of the gallbladder can induce various symptoms, some of which are condition specific that are as follows.

Causes of a contracted gallbladder

When your gallbladder drains bile to aid digestion, it shrinks in size. That’s quite natural and shouldn’t worry you too much; it’s just another step in the digestive process.

The exact cause of a contracted gallbladder is not always known, but there are several risk factors have been identified.

Gallbladder contractions can also be brought on by:

  • Gallbladder Inflammation. Gallbladder tissue can become scarred if inflammation persists for a long time. Because of this, you may have trouble digesting certain foods because your gallbladder has a harder time storing and releasing bile.
  • Porcelain gallbladder. Porcelain gallbladder is a disorder where the gallbladder becomes so thin that it breaks. This may be caused by gallstones, but doctors aren’t sure. This disease raises the possibility of developing gallbladder cancer.
  • Gallstones. Cholesterol and bilirubin are examples of chemicals that can form into solid aggregates. A build-up of gallstones in the bile ducts prevents the gallbladder from emptying its contents.
  • Blockage of Cystic duct. The cystic duct is the tube that carries bile from the liver to the gallbladder and onto the bile ducts that lead from the gallbladder to the small intestine. If anything like gallstones clogs the cystic duct between your liver and gallbladder, your gallbladder will get smaller since it won’t receive any bile.

Diagnosis of contracted gallbladder

According to Dr. Valeria Simone MD, an experienced general surgeon at Southlake General Surgery, Texas, a contracted gallbladder is usually diagnosed based on the symptoms that are present. However, there are a few tests that can be done to confirm the diagnosis.

If you’re experiencing gallbladder problems, your doctor will first want to know:

  • any symptoms you have experienced
  • the beginning of your symptoms and how long they lasted
  • the frequency with which you observe the symptoms
  • if your symptoms are always present or if they only appear sometimes
  • anything—from a change in diet to an increase in physical activity—that affects the severity or disappearance of your symptoms

Your doctor may use more than one method to diagnose a constricted gallbladder and determine the underlying cause of the condition based on the information presented here. Your doctor may prescribe for the following test to diagnose the contracted gallbladder:

Blood test

Your doctor may order a complete blood count to investigate potential causes of gallbladder problems. Conditions including jaundice and pancreatitis, as well as those brought on by gallstones and bile duct blockage, fall into this category.


Ultrasound imaging can reveal the gallbladder and its surrounding organs. If you’re going to get an ultrasound, you might want to fast beforehand just to be safe. Ultrasound scans will not be able to detect a constricted gallbladder.

Symptoms could be caused by inflammation or gallstones, both of which can be diagnosed with ultrasound.

CT scan

In case, your doctor is unable to see your gallbladder on ultrasound imaging, they may opt to perform a CT scan instead, which provides a cross-sectional view of the organ.

HIDA test

To better visualize your gallbladder on an x-ray, your doctor may choose to inject you with a contrast agent. A hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid (HIDA) test is a standard method for determining this.

You will have a radioactive tracer injected into your arm. This tracer is followed as it travels through the biliary system to the liver and gallbladder. Abnormal gallbladder function may be seen by your doctor as the tracer travels through the biliary system.

Treatment of contracted gallbladder

Treatment for a contracted gallbladder typically involves a combination of lifestyle changes and medical intervention. One of the most important lifestyle changes is to lose weight if you are overweight or obese.

This can help to reduce the risk of gallstone formation and can also help to lessen the symptoms of a contracted gallbladder. Medical intervention may involve taking medication to dissolve gallstones or having surgery to remove the gallbladder.

If there are no symptoms, a constricted gallbladder might not need to be treated. On the other hand, if your gallbladder is inflamed for another reason, your doctor may suggest:

  • Oral dissolution. One way to assist dissolve gallstones as they move through your gallbladder is to take a medicine prescribed by your doctor. If cholesterol substances are too responsible for your gallstones, this procedure will be performed.
  • Cholecystectomy. This operation is commonly known as gallbladder removal surgery. A small incision is made just above the gallbladder to facilitate the procedure. Laparoscopic gallbladder removal is another option that avoids the need for a major incision by using a succession of small incisions to accommodate the necessary tools and lighting.
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). An endoscope with instruments allows a surgeon to access and remove gallstones from a patient’s bile ducts. To remove a small number of gallstones, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is typically used.
  • Shockwave lithotripsy. Shock waves will be used to break up gallstones so they can be expelled from the gallbladder. If the gallstones aren’t too big, this is the treatment of choice.


Even if your gallbladder is constricted, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need medical attention. If there is no severe discomfort, it is likely just a normal part of the digestive process.

Nonetheless, if you feel any discomfort, sickness, or other symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor. There are a few nonsurgical options that can address the underlying reasons.


For more information on contracted gallbladder-causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. You can contact our healthcare expert today for a quick appointment at +1(817) 748-0200.

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