Gallbladder polyps are growths of abnormal cells that protrude from the lining of the inside of the gallbladder. They range in size from 4 mm to over 1 cm. Polyps can be cancerous, especially if they are large, although cancerous gallbladder polyps are rare (chance is less than 5 per cent). Gallbladder polyps are found in about 4 per cent of patients with gallbladder pain. Other symptoms of gallbladder polyps are rare.
Symptoms of gallbladder polyps are usually very mild or nonexistent. The main symptom is usually pain and tenderness in the upper right abdomen. The pain can be steady or intermittent. If the pain is severe, it is usually caused by gallstones, not polyps.
Because polyps do not usually cause pain, most gallbladder polyps are discovered when an ultrasound is performed to diagnose gallstones or inflammation of the gallbladder. Most often, a patient first complains about gallbladder pain. When the ultrasound is performed to find the cause of the pain, gallstones or other problems such as a blocked bile duct are discovered in addition to some polyps, which are not usually a cause for concern.
If there is no other problem with the gallbladder other than the polyps, no treatment will probably be performed unless the polyps are extremely numerous or over 1 cm in size, which could indicate cancer. In that instance, the gallbladder will most likely be surgically removed. Removal of the gallbladder will still allow you to live a normal life.
There are actually five types of polyps in the gallbladder. Most are cholesterosis, which means they are formed partially from cholesterol. This is also how gallstones are formed, which is why eating fatty foods can lead to the development of gallstones. The other are hyperplastic, adenomyomatosis, adenocarcinoma and cholecystosis.
To prevent the formation of polyps and gallstones, eat a low fat-diet high in vegetables and fruit. Avoid fatty foods, caffeine and alcohol, all of which are known to aggravate gallbladder conditions. If your gallbladder is removed, you should avoid such items before your surgery and for the recovery period afterward, which usually lasts about three to four weeks.