Monday 26 September 2022 11:05 PM Woman was left in agony and lost a shocking EIGHT stone after a routine ... trends now

Monday 26 September 2022 11:05 PM Woman was left in agony and lost a shocking EIGHT stone after a routine ... trends now
Monday 26 September 2022 11:05 PM Woman was left in agony and lost a shocking EIGHT stone after a routine ... trends now

Monday 26 September 2022 11:05 PM Woman was left in agony and lost a shocking EIGHT stone after a routine ... trends now

Losing 8st and dropping several dress sizes after having children may sound like a cause for celebration — but not for Aimee Cooper.

For her dramatic change in shape was not down to a diet and exercise regimen but rather a little-known condition that typically affects people who’ve had their gallbladder removed (one of the most common procedures performed by the NHS).

It’s left the 28-year-old former shop assistant from Wellington, Shropshire, who lives with her fiancé Gary, in debilitating pain and too exhausted to play with their children, aged eight and four.

‘Before, I could eat, run about with my children and enjoy life,’ says Aimee. ‘Now I can’t eat, throw up all the time, have no energy and am in pain daily.’

Known as sphincter of Oddi dysfunction (SOD), it is caused by a muscle malfunction. This usually opens and closes to release juices and bile from the liver into the small intestine to digest food. But in people with the condition, this muscle, which emerges from the liver, doesn’t open properly, causing a back-up of bile and severe pain in the abdomen.

Losing 8st and dropping several dress sizes after having children may sound like a cause for celebration — but not for Aimee Cooper

Losing 8st and dropping several dress sizes after having children may sound like a cause for celebration — but not for Aimee Cooper

SOD affects 10 per cent of the 70,000 people a year in the UK who have had their gallbladder removed.

The gallbladder, a small, pouch-like organ, stores bile but is not necessary for healthy functioning of the body. Removing it is a routine operation to treat gallstones (crystallised fatty deposits).

However, in some cases surgery can lead to problems with the sphincter of Oddi — possibly due to scarring from the passing of gallstones, or nerves to the sphincter being damaged during the operation.

Around 1.5 per cent of the population (hundreds of thousands of people in the UK) are thought to have sphincter of Oddi syndrome, says Professor Brian Davidson, a consultant hepatic biliary and liver transplant surgeon at the Royal Free London NHS Trust.

While it’s usually triggered by surgery to remove the gallbladder, it can also occur spontaneously.

In cases not caused by surgery it is often wrongly attributed to gallstones, as the symptoms — pain, particularly on the right side of the abdomen, nausea and vomiting — are the same.

Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction tends to affect mostly women. This may be because they are more prone to gallstones, as the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone make bile more concentrated (especially during pregnancy) and reduce contractions of the gallbladder, so the bile is more stagnant and likely to crystalise.

‘Rapid weight loss and yo-yo dieting can also increase your risk of getting gallstones,’ says Christian Macutkiewicz, a consultant general and hepato-pancreato-biliary surgeon at Manchester Royal Infirmary, and director of The Gallstone Clinic.

One theory is that dieting reduces the number of times the gallbladder contracts.

Even though hers was a classic case of SOD, Aimee struggled to get a diagnosis. It was shortly before she became pregnant with her first child that Aimee started to experience excruciating pain in the right side of her abdomen.

After six months, she was referred for an ultrasound scan, which showed that her gallbladder was ‘stuffed’ with gallstones. But she was advised to ‘wait and see’ if surgery to remove her gallbladder was necessary.

During the procedure, carried out under local anaesthetic, doctors diagnosed SOD and decided to cut the muscle to widen it, in order to relieve the problem. However, afterwards Aimee was still in pain, requiring multiple hospital visits and morphine [File photo]

During the procedure, carried out under local anaesthetic, doctors diagnosed SOD and decided to cut the muscle to widen it, in order to relieve the problem. However, afterwards Aimee was still in pain, requiring multiple hospital visits and morphine [File photo]

Aimee became pregnant with her first child and six months after the birth in 2014, she was rushed to hospital in acute pain, again caused by gallstones, and this time underwent emergency surgery to remove her gallbladder.

For many patients, this operation — known as cholecystectomy — is a cure for the problem of recurrent gallstones.

‘I was told that now it was out, I’d be free of the pain that had plagued me on and off for nearly two years,’ says Aimee.

‘I was warned against eating fatty or spicy foods — because these are harder to digest and could lead to pain without the gallbladder there to help control bile flow — but that was it.’

But just three weeks later Aimee experienced the same excruciating sharp pain, which started in the right side of her abdomen and spread up her right shoulder. ‘It felt identical to a gallstone attack, but, as I didn’t have a gallbladder, I

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