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Gallbladder polyps are generally benign clusters of cells that form on the interior lining of the gallbladder. Much less often found than gallstones, these polyps develop in 1-4% of the population. The five main types of gallbladder polyps are cholesterol polyps, adenomyomas, inflammatory polyps, adenomas, and neoplasms, and a very small fraction of them turn out to contain cancerous tissue. They are usually found via ultrasound conducted to check for other problems related to abdominal pain or to examine the liver.
The gallbladder is situation between the liver and intestine, which cannot be viewed with an endoscope. An ultrasound or computerized axial tomography (CT) scan is used to see and follow up on gallbladder polyps. Cholesterol polyps make up roughly 60% of all cases. They are not dangerous unless they break away and block the bile duct.
Adenomyomas are the second most common type of gallbladder polyps and comprise 25% of all cases. They cause the gallbladder wall to thicken, but are not a cause for concern unless they become segmentally distributed and their presence causes the gallbladder lumen to narrow and constrict. A small fraction of these can be cancerous, and surgical removal of the organ is usually done if segmentation is found.
10% of all gallbladder polyps are inflammatory polyps. Chronic inflammation of gallbladder tissue combined with granulation and fibrous tissues make up these polyps, which generally require no surgical action to correct the problem. A rarer type of polyp called an adenoma accounts for 4% of polyps inside the gallbladder. Of the adenomas that are cancerous, most are more than 0.47 inches (12 mm) across, and it is not believed that benign ones can become cancerous.
The fifth type of gallbladder polyps are neoplasms. While these are usually benign, they can include different kinds of malignancies and be up to 0.79 inches (20 mm) in size. If a patient is determined to be at risk for needing surgery in the future, an ultrasound is conducted every six months to observe any changes in polyp size. A common technique is an endoscopic ultrasound that can accurately examine gallbladder polyps to determine their exact nature. In most cases the level of concern over a polyp is directly related to its size, and usually periodic monitoring is all that is required.