Gallbladder Polyps

Gallbladder polyps are commonly found on ultrasound studies of the gallbladder.   They can be single or multiple in number.  They are usually found incidentally on ultrasound studies and are most commonly asymptomatic.  The main concern is that they can be cancerous in some cases, particularly when large.

What are gallbladder polyps?

Gallbladder polyps are growths along the inner wall of the gallbladder.  Majority of polyps are benign and consist of cholesterol or inflammatory polyps.  Those which are cancerous are larger and often greater than 1-2 cm in size.

Gallbladder polyps symptoms

Gallbladder polyps are most commonly asymptomatic.  Those which are large may cause pain, jaundice, nausea and vomiting.

How are gallbladder polyps diagnosed?

We most commonly see the polyps on ultrasound of the gallbladder.  We can rarely see polyps on other imaging tests like CT or MRI.  We can not see polyps on X-rays or nuclear medicine studies.

What do gallbladder polyps look like on imaging?

Ultrasound is the best test for diagnosing and evaluating polyps.  These are growths along the inner wall of the gallbladder.  Most polyps are adherent to the gallbladder wall unlike most gallstones.  Polyps do not move when the patient changes position unlike gallstones.  They do not cause a shadow behind them like gallstones do.  Many are smaller than a centimeter.

What else can look like gallbladder polyps in radiology?

Gallbladder stones can sometimes be adherent to the wall and mimic a polyp.  Mass like gallbladder sludge can mimic a polyp but is often mobile.  Focal areas of gallbladder inflammation can mimic polyps.

What causes gallbladder polyps?

Gallbladder polyps can be caused by Inflammation, cholesterol deposits or abnormal growths along the gallbladder wall.

Are gallbladder polyps dangerous?

They can be because some polyps can be cancerous.  These are usually the larger polyps greater than 1-2 cm.  Otherwise they rarely cause symptoms.

Can gallbladder polyps be cancerous?

Yes some polyps can be cancerous.  Management of polyps requires removal of the gallbladder in some cases.

Management of gallbladder polyps

There are multiple recommendations from medical societies for managing gallbladder polyps.  The American College of Radiology  recommends management based on the size of the polyp and risk factors.

Polyps which are under 6 mm require no treatment or followup. Polyps between 7-9 mm require yearly followup.  Those which are greater than 1 cm or grow over time require a surgical consultation for gallbladder removal.

Risk factors include age greater than 50 years old, Indian ancestry, and liver disease like primary sclerosing cholangitis.

What type of doctor treats gallbladder polyps?

A general surgeon who is skilled in removing the gallbladder treats polyps.

Gallbladder polyps treatment

The treatment is often removal of the gallbladder or cholecystectomy for those polyps which are larger or grow.

Gallbladder polyps: summary

Gallbladder polyps are growths of the gallbladder wall.  They are most commonly asymptomatic and discovered incidentally.  The majority of polyps are benign and present no risk of cancer.  Those polyps which are larger or grow will need to be followed with additional ultrasounds or treated with removal of the gallbladder.

Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

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