INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Just ten days after her husband was sworn into office, Karen Pence had emergency surgery to remove her gallbladder.
Doctors say it's a common procedure. Around half a million of them are performed every year and most of them are performed on women. However, until the organ is removed the condition is painful.
"Some people describe it as something squeezing or punching them underneath their rib cage on the right side. Sometimes the pain is felt into their back up to their shoulder on their right side," explains General Surgeon Dr. Stephen O'Neil from Community Health Network.
Dr. Stephen O'Neil is not Karen Pence's doctor, but gallbladder surgeries make up a lot of his practice. He says patients can have gallbladder complications not even knowing it, but when it's an emergency usually that means stones have formed in the organ.
"Some people just have occasional pains lasting a half hour to two hours or so. They come and go on their own. Some people then have a pain that lasts as persistent and does not go away and these are generally the people that need to have it removed more quickly," says Dr. O'Neil.
Dr. O'Neil says the procedure is usually done laparoscopicaly. It takes less than an hour and with only four incisions the gallbladder is taken out through the belly button.
Most patients including the first lady go home that same day.
"Even though it's little incisions, its real surgery and some people perceive that they're going to feel great immediately .They don't. It usually takes a few weeks to a couple of months before people feel like they're back to a 100 percent," says Dr. O'Neil.
Dr. O'Neil says if not treated quickly gallbladder stones can cause pancreatitis. Dr O'Neil says, one patient of his came in with gallbladder stones never having them before.
He ended up in the hospital for nine months because it turned into pancreatitis.
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