Healthy Living

What Are the Risks of Gallbladder Surgery?

What Are the Risks of Gallbladder Surgery?

Key Takeaways

  • The removal of the gallbladder is considered as a safe surgery. 
  • A laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery is considered as the most effective way of treating gallstones and gallbladder problems. 
  • After the removal of the gallbladder, you may develop a surgical wound infection. 

Your gallbladder has a very big role in the body during digestion. It is the organ that collects a fluid known as bile, which helps you to digest food. If your gallbladder develops complications, you may need to have it removed. You may also have it removed if you develop gallstones. Gallstones are consequently made by chemicals found in the bile.

Laparoscopic Gallbladder Surgery Overview

The surgeon removes your gallbladder or gallstones by making several incisions on your abdomen. In order to have a clear view of your inner abdomen, your surgeon inflates it with air, specifically carbon dioxide.

The surgeon then inserts a laparoscope attached together with a light scope into your belly near the belly button. With the help of a video monitor, the surgeon removes your gallbladder using necessary surgical instruments.

The anatomy of the bile ducts is monitored through intraoperative cholangiography. It is a special type of X–ray that is conducted on you before the surgeon removes the gallbladder.

During surgery, you will be put under general anesthesia, which should be active for at least two hours. Because of the resulting gallbladder removal, your body will no longer keep bile in between your meals. However, the absence of a gallbladder has very little or no effect at all in your digestion. After your surgery, bile will flow to your small intestines from the liver, where it is directly produced through the bile duct.

In some cases of gallbladder removal surgeries, the surgeon may need to change from a laparoscopic surgery to an open gallbladder surgery. The reason is that the surgeon may require a wider incision due to an excessive bleeding, an unexpected inflammation, a scar on tissue, or any other injuries.

Post-surgery Expectations

You can have your gallbladder removal surgery either as an inpatient or outpatient. You may be required to spend up to four days in the hospital.

In most cases, you can resume your normal routine around 10 days after the procedure. If you underwent a laparoscopic surgery, then you may feel sore for a week. You are likely to have lesser discomforts after three weeks. You do not need any special diet after a gallbladder removal surgery. Typically, those who had laparoscopic surgeries recover faster than those people who had an open surgery.

Why is it done?

A laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery is considered as the most effective way of treating gallstones and gallbladder problems. You and your doctors should discuss all factors that may affect your laparoscopic surgery.

How effective is it?

When you have gallstones in your gallbladder, a laparoscopic gallbladder surgery can be used to get rid of them. However, this surgery does not remove the gallstones that are formed in the bile duct. In rare occasions, you may develop gallstones in your bile duct years after the surgery.

Gallbladder Surgery Risks

The removal of the gallbladder is considered as a safe surgery. Most gallbladder removal surgeries are successful. There are, however, a number of possible risks and complications that may result from the removal of the gallbladder. They include:

  • Infection - After the removal of the gallbladder, you may develop a surgical wound infection. The symptoms of internal infections include persistent pain. You should immediately visit your doctor so you can be given a prescription for antibiotics.
  • Bleeding - After the surgery, you may bleed. Even though this complication is very rare, you may need a second surgery if the bleeding persists.
  • Bile leakage - After the removal of the gallbladder, some surgical clips are used to seal the tube that links the gallbladder and the bile duct. In rare occasions, bile may leak into the abdomen. You may feel generally sick. You may experience pain in your abdomen, have an enlarged tummy, or have a fever. Bile leakage is rare and occurs in only 1 percent of the patients.
  • Bile duct injury - Injury to the bile duct is very rare. It occurs in 1 in every 500 patients. The bile duct may get injured as a result of the removal of the gallbladder. If noticed immediately, it will be repaired right away. If noticed after the surgery, you may need another operation for it.
  • Injury to the blood vessels, bowels, and intestines - It is a very rare complication that can be witnessed in just 1 in every 1,000 patients. The injuries may be present in the tissues around the gallbladder such as the blood vessels or the intestines. In some cases, the damage may only be noticed after the surgery. You may need another surgery to correct this type of complication.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) - There are people who are at very high risk of having a blood clot after the surgery. A blood clot can form in the veins of the leg, which is called deep vein thrombosis or DVT. DVT may also lead to pulmonary embolism, a condition that may cause the blockage of blood flow into the lungs. This condition is serious and should be taken care of immediately. In most cases, patients are provided with a compression gear to wear after the surgery to help prevent deep vein thrombosis from happening.
  • General anesthesia risks - In very rare occasions, you might develop complications due to the anesthetic used in the operation. These complications include death or serious reactions. Thus, it is vital that you keep fit and healthy prior to your surgery.

Postcholecystectomy Syndrome

You may experience symptoms that are somewhat similar to having an inflamed gallbladder. Such symptoms include:

  • pain in the tummy
  • digestion problems
  • diarrhea
  • jaundice
  • a fever of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit 

This complication is referred to as PCS or postcholecystectomy syndrome. It is caused by leakage of the bile or by gallstones that are left in the bile ducts. However, the symptoms should only be short-term. You should contact your doctors if your symptoms persist. You can get a prescription from your doctor, but you may also need another operation to remove the stones that were left in the bile ducts.

What to Think About

In a laparoscopic surgery, the recovery is faster and with lesser pain as compared to an open surgery.

  • For open surgery, you will most probably stay in the hospital for up to four days. In a laparoscopic surgery, your stay in the hospital is shorter. You may leave the hospital the same day or on the next day of your surgery.
  • After undergoing an open surgery, you will need up to 6 to 7 weeks before you can return to your normal routine. After a laparoscopic surgery, your recovery will only take like 10 days.

Recovering from a Gallbladder Surgery

You should arrange for a driver to take you home before you leave the hospital. Moreover, you should arrange for someone to help you at home. Avoid any strenuous work such as lifting, pulling, or pushing heavy things.

When to Get Medical Advice

If you experience the following conditions, then you should contact your doctor immediately:

  • when the original symptoms return
  • when you have a severe persistent pain
  • when you have a high fever of above 100 degrees Fahrenheit
  • when you frequently feel nauseous
  • when your wound swells, smells, or if you notice any discharges coming out of it
  • when you have pale stools or when your urine is too dark
  • when your skin turns yellow