The Gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ that is located below the liver. It is found on the right side of the abdomen. Its primary function is to take and store the fluid that is released from the liver to help in digestion (bile). The surgical procedure that is used to extract a damaged gallbladder is referred to as a ‘cholecystectomy.’ This procedure only becomes necessary when gallstones interrupt the flow of bile and cause severe pain in the abdomen as a result. A cholecystectomy is one of the most common operations today and it comes with very minimal risks. You may even be discharged from the hospital the same day you undergo the procedure.
This procedure involves making four small incisions in the abdomen. The gallbladder is removed through these incisions by using a relatively small camera and surgical tools. Doctors normally refer to this procedure as a ‘laparoscopic cholecystectomy.’
Another type of procedure involves the removal of the gallbladder through one large incision. This procedure is commonly referred to as an open cholecystectomy.
Why a Cholecystectomy Is Performed
The main purpose of this surgical procedure is to get rid of gallstones and the complications that may arise as a result of them. The following are situations that may force your doctor to recommend you undergo the procedure:
- When you have gallstones in the gallbladder (chollelithiasis).
- When gallstones are present in the bile duct (choledocholithiasis).
- When the gallbladder is inflamed (cholecystitis).
- When the pancreas becomes inflamed as a result of gallstones (pancreatitis).
How to Prepare for Gallbladder Surgery
The following are what may be asked of you by your doctor to prepare for the procedure:
- A special kind of solution may be prescribed to you in the days prior to the procedure to help clean your intestines.
- You will be required to eat nothing on the night prior to your surgery. A sip of water for taking medication may be allowed, but you won’t be able to eat or even drink anything for the four hours prior to your surgery.
- You will be required to keep your doctor updated on all the medications and supplements that you are currently taking. This will allow the doctor to tell you which ones to discontinue before the surgery.
Preparing for Your Recovery
It is always recommended to plan ahead for your recovery.
Always be prepared to spend one day or more in the hospital. Even though the chances of you getting back home the same day are high, complications may arise during the procedure that may force you to remain another day or two at the hospital. A good example of these incidents is when the surgeon is required to make a longer incision when removing the gallbladder. In such instances, you will probably be required to stay longer in the hospital.
Since it is not possible to know how the procedure will turn out in advance, you should plan ahead for your stay in the hospital so as to be on the safe side no matter what happens. Carry along some personal items such as a toothbrush for dental hygiene and some reading material to help you pass the time. Set up to have a designated driver who can take you home after the procedure. This may be a member of your family, friend, or other licensed driver.
What to Expect
During a cholecystectomy, you are put under general anesthetics and you will be asleep during the operation. An I.V line is placed on your arm and is used to serve you the anesthesia.
You will have a tube inserted in the throat to assist you in breathing while you are unconscious. The surgeon will then continue with either an open or laparoscopic surgery.
What to Expect During a Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy
During a laparoscopic removal of the gallbladder, 4 incisions are made on your abdomen. A laparoscope is then inserted into your tummy. Your surgeon, with the aid of a surgical monitor screen and surgical instruments, will carefully remove your gallbladder.
Your surgeon may test and scan you further if he or she suspects that there are gallstones present. After the removal of the gallbladder, the incisions will be clipped or stitched closed. Normally, the operation should not take more than 2 hours.
Laparoscopic gallbladder removal may not be appropriate for all patients. In 4 out of 10 cases, surgeons start with a laparoscopic surgery and end up using an open gallbladder removal. This is nothing to be alarmed about as your surgeon considers your condition and safety first.
Recovering from Gallbladder Removal Surgery
Your recovery primarily depends on your overall health and the type of surgery that you had. That is, whether your gallbladder was removed through an open or a laparoscopic gallbladder surgery. With most laparoscopic gallbladder surgeries, you can go home the very day you undergo the procedure and it takes around 10 days to return to your normal routine.
If you had an open gallbladder surgery, you will most likely have to be admitted for around 4 days. Recovery time will also take longer, usually up to 8 weeks.
Whether you have an open or laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery, you should plan to have someone drive you back home. The effects of the anesthetics may still be on you for up to 24 hours after the surgery. Arrange for someone to stay with you for around 2 days after the procedure. This is for safety reasons or in case you need further help.
Possible Side Effects of Surgery
Your digestion will not be affected by the removal of your gallbladder. You will also have no long-term effects of cholecystectomy. However, while you are in the recovery process, you may experience the following conditions:
- Bruised, enlarged, and swollen wounds: You may have painful wounds that are bruised or swollen. you can purchase over-the-counter or prescribed pain relievers to reduce the pain.
- Feeling sick: General anesthetic may come with a number of side effects. You may even feel like you are sick. This should not last for more than 24 hours.
- Tummy and shoulder pain: The surgeon fills your abdomen with gas during the surgery. After the surgery, you will most likely have discomfort that is caused by this gas. Discomfort should not last more than 2 days.
- Flatulence, bloating, and diarrhea: These symptoms can occur for some weeks. You can eat vegetables, bread, and fruits to help make your stool firm. Your doctor will also give you a prescription for medicine that will help you.
- Irritability, fatigue, and mood swings: You should expect an improvement in these feelings over time.
The symptoms mentioned above are normal effects during your recovery process. If symptoms are persistent or severe, you are advised to contact your doctor immediately.
When to Seek Medical Assistance
Please contact your doctor if you begin to experience the following symptoms:
- Persistent and severe pain.
- When the prior symptoms return.
- If you have a fever of over 100F.
- If you continuously vomit and feel sick.
- If you develop jaundice.
- If you have pale stools and very dark urine.
- If you witness a discharge from your wounds.
- During a laparoscopic removal of the gallbladder, 4 incisions are made on your abdomen.
- Laparoscopic gallbladder removal may not be appropriate for all patients.
- Whether you have an open or laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery, you should always have someone to drive you back home.