What is Porcelain Gallbladder?

Porcelain gallbladder means the wall of the gallbladder has been calcified to a hard and bluish white texture resembling porcelain ceramic. This medical condition primarily results from a chronically inflamed organ. When many gallstones collect in the gallbladder, it becomes irritated, and precipitates calcification that might necessitate surgery.

To understand the process that creates porcelain gallbladder, we must understand how this digestive organ works. The 4" (10 cm) gallbladder stores bile, a kind of acid, that digests fats in what we eat. The cystic duct transfer bile made in the liver to the gallbladder. Then the gallbladder stores or passes along the right amount of bile through the common bile duct to the small intestine. When bile doesn't successfully break down fat, perhaps due to a high fat diet, the extra cholesterol can crystallize into gallstones.

Gallstones, even though they are tiny, can lodge in those ducts that carry bile and limit the flow of fluids. A build up of gallstones causes unhealthy blockages that end up inflaming or infecting the entire gallbladder, called cholecystitis. Over time, the wall and lining of the gallbladder thickens and hardens, resulting in porcelain gallbladder. Women are five times as likely as men to suffer from this condition, even though the overall incidence in the general population is less than 1%.

In 90% of the cases of porcelain gallbladder, calcification is the direct result of cholecystitis, but medical experts still don't know exactly how it happens. Since porcelain gallbladder has no early symptoms, it is usually detected by a CT scan, X-ray, or ultrasound being conducted for another reason. Porcelain gallbladder appears as a visible dense sac beside the liver. So far, the only treatment at this late stage of diagnosis is to remove the entire gallbladder. Researchers are still investigating the relationship between porcelain gallbladder and the risk of cancer of the gallbladder, as recently studies have suggested they are not as linked as previously believed.