The outcomes, conditions, and locations may differ, yet the take-home message of so many bizarre medical case stories is the same: when things get weird, don’t wait, go to the doctor.
The plight of Yogesh Yewle, a 43-year-old man from western India, provides the latest health-related teachable moment.
According to multiple sources, Yewle, a hardware store manager, had been suffering from intermittent abdominal pain for some time, but never sought treatment; choosing to drown out his symptoms with antacids and over the counter painkillers.
Last Thursday, however, the discomfort became so extreme that he went to the Krishna Hospital in Nashik.
Once admitted, doctors performed a suite of imaging scans that indicated the gallbladder – a small organ that stores fat-digesting bile produced by the liver – was the source of the pain.
"The sonography showed that a single mass was occupying the entire gallbladder, as in sonography it is difficult to distinguish between the small stones," Dr Amit Sharad Kele, the surgeon who operated on Yewle, told Fox News.
"Whereas the CT scan report showed cholecystitis, which is inflammation of the gallbladder. However, the CT scan did not show any gallstones because they are radiolucent which means they are entirely transparent to radiation and almost entirely invisible in X-ray photographs."
Expecting a routine gallstone removal procedure, Dr Kele and his surgical team began a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure on Saturday, May 26.
“Usually we get to see two to twenty stones, but here there were so many and when we counted them, it was a whopping 4,100.”
(Fun fact: According to Guinness World Records, the most stones removed at one time was 23,530, taken from an 85-year-old British woman in 1987)
Gallstones form when the bilirubin – a product of hemoglobin metabolism – or cholesterol present in bile reach abnormally high concentrations, compared with the co-occurring bile salts and water, and harden into solid, pebble-like clumps.
It is not yet fully understood why some people develop these stones and others don’t, but several risk factors have been identified, including certain liver and blood disorders, several nutrient deficiencies, being overweight or obese, and losing weight rapidly.
Many people who have gallstones may go years without experiencing noticeable symptoms, as the alarming pain only arises when a stone blocks the bile duct linking the gallbladder to the first section of the intestine. Such an event, called a gallstone attack, often onsets after a fatty meal – a stimulus that causes the gallbladder to contract – and is characterized by pain on the upper right side of the abdomen (or between the shoulder blades), nausea, and vomiting. If the bile duct becomes chronically blocked, bilirubin may leak into the bloodstream, causing jaundice and itching.
Untreated stones can rupture out of the side of the gallbladder, create susceptibility to bacterial infections, and lead to potentially life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas.
Mr Yewle is expected to make a full recovery, but will hopefully take bodily complaints a bit more seriously in the future.