Healthy Living

What are the Risks to a Cholecystectomy?

What are the Risks to a Cholecystectomy?

A cholecystectomy is often performed to remove gallstones. This usually causes pain and complications within the bile duct and gallbladder. There are also risks associated with this procedure. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is usually safe and heals quickly. This involves the insertion of a small camera into the affected area to have a good view in order to remove the gallbladder easily.

The gallbladder is located under the liver on the upper right side of the belly or abdomen. It stores a digestive juice called bile and this is produced in the liver.

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The risks include:

  • Bleeding
  • Risks of infection
  • Bile leakage into the tummy
  • Numbness at the site of incision
  • Possible injury of the liver
  • Possible injury to the bile duct
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Post-cholecystectomy syndrome 

These risks are discussed in detail below.


     1. Bleeding

Bleeding could occur right after the surgery. This is not very uncommon but it portends worse things like clotting and other complications. It is recommended to go back to the hospital or clinic to get further surgery done to ensure that you do not develop something else. This will often require a second operation but it is not complicated.


     2. Risks of Infection

At times, a wound or internal infection may develop after the surgery. This is not uncommon but it should not happen. It does happen because of the area where the gallbladder is located. It has too many potentially risky chemicals that the body produces. If these are tampered, infections might occur.

The signs of an infection include increasing pain, swelling and redness. If it’s a wound, there will be pus oozing from it. These will automatically mean that an infection has occurred.


      3. Leakage of Bile into the Abdomen or Tummy (Biloma)

When bile fluid leaks from the abdomen, your body will essentially be poisoning itself due to the fact that you are tampering with its normal routine. Surgeons make use of clips to prevent this phenomenon during the surgery.

If this situation occurs, you will experience pain in the abdomen, feelings of wanting to vomit and fevers. Normally, the fluid can be drained out. The abdomen is subjected to an operation to make sure that the bile juice is removed and flushed out.

Although this kind of risk is minimal and rare, it is better to be aware of it.


     4. Possible Injury to the Bile Duct

It is possible for the bile duct to be damaged or injured during a gallbladder removal. Usually if this is noticed during the operation, it will be fixed right away. If not, you will have to undergo a second operation to rectify the issue. However with laparoscopy, these injuries have been reduced to a great extent.


      5. Possible Injury to the Intestines and Blood Vessels

The instruments used in the procedure can sometimes harm the surrounding organs that are located around the gallbladder. These might include intestines, blood vessels and even the bowels. This happens if the gallbladder is inflamed and attaches itself to the surrounding organs. This will cause the procedure to be a bit tricky increasing the chances of a mistake.

This type of injury is rare but it does occur approximately once in every 1000 procedures. As usual, if the injury is not noticed immediately, you will be required to go back for further surgery.

      6. Numbness at the Incision Site

After the procedure is complete, the patient will feel numbness at the incision site. This is normally caused by the stitches and the after-effects of the anesthetics. At other times, it could be a result of sewing the incision too tight. This is a normal reaction which is supposed to wear off usually after a couple of days.

The numbness normally leads to irritation and you will want to scratch the site of the incision. This is not wise.

Also, sometimes the anesthetics may compose of materials that your body is allergic to. This could lead to unpleasant reactions and even death. Therefore, it is imperative to make sure if your body is fit enough to be placed under anesthetics before you go in for the procedure.

     7. Deep Vein Thrombosis

This is a medical term for the formation of blood clots after the surgery. These are most commonly found in veins located in the legs. This risk can be decreased by the use of sequential compression devices on legs during the surgery.


    8. Post-Cholecystectomy Syndrome

This is a condition that is supposedly caused by the leaking of bile juice into the stomach or by gallstones left in the bile ducts. The symptoms include pain in the abdomen, indigestion, diarrhea and jaundice accompanied by a fever causing the feeling of throwing up.

In most cases the symptoms are expected to disappear but if they do not, it is very wise to seek medical care and advice as soon as possible.

This condition will be remedied by the surgery to make sure that no bad consequences are followed later.


Other Risks Include

  • Mal-absorption of fat soluble vitamins and fatty acids
  • Pneumonia
  • Hernia
  • Scarring at the incision site


Bottom Line

The cholecystectomy procedure is carried out mainly to protect you from injurious effects that could cause worse complications. While this remains to be an undeniable fact, it also carries certain risks that cannot be avoided. However, these risks have been reduced with the advent of the laparoscopic method of performing the procedure. It provides accuracy and precision which was not found in the old open incision method.

You can undergo operation feeling confident now that you know what to expect. All these risks can be prevented or eliminated by a second surgery if there was a mistake in the first.