1 What is a Cholecystectomy (Gallbladder Removal)?

Cholecystectomy is a surgical procedure to remove your gallbladder, which is a pear-shaped organ that is located just below our liver on the upper right side of your abdomen. Your gallbladder is responsible for collecting and storing bile, a digestive fluid produced in your liver.

Cholecystectomy may be necessary if you experience pain from gallstones that block the flow of bile. A cholecystectomy is a common procedure, and it carries a small list of complications. In the majority of cases, you can go home on the same day as your cholecystectomy.

Cholecystectomy is most commonly performed by inserting a tiny video camera and special surgical instruments through four small incisions to view the inside of your abdomen and remove the gallbladder. Doctors call this laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

In some cases, one large incision may be used to remove the gallbladder. This procedure is known as an open cholecystectomy.

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2 Reasons for Procedure

The main reason for a cholecystectomy is to treat gallstones and the complications they cause.

Your doctor may recommend cholecystectomy if you have the following:

3 Potential Risks

A cholecystectomy carries the following risks:

  • Bile leak
  • Blood clots
  • Death
  • Heart problems
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Pancreatitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Injury to nearby structures, such as the bile duct, liver, and small intestine

4 Preparing for your Procedure

In order to prepare for a cholecystectomy, your surgeon may ask you to do the following:

  • Drink a solution to clean out your intestines: In the days leading to your procedure, you may be given a prescription solution that flushes stool out of your intestines.
  • Eat nothing the night before your procedure: You may drink a sip of water with your medication, but avoid eating and drinking at least four hours before your surgery.
  • Stop taking certain medications and supplements: Make sure you tell our doctor about all the medications and supplements you are taking. Continue taking most medications as prescribed, your doctor may advise you to stop taking certain medications and supplements because they may increase your risk of bleeding.
  • Prepare for your recovery: Make plans ahead for your recovery after surgery. For instance: Plan for a hospital stay. Most individuals go home the same day as their cholecystectomy. However, complications might occur that require one or more nights in the hospital.

    If the surgeon has to make a long incision in your abdomen to remove your gallbladder, you may need to stay in the hospital longer. It is not always possible to be informed ahead of time what procedure will be used.

    Plan ahead in case you need to stay in the hospital by bringing personal items, such as your toothbrush, comfortable clothing, and books or magazines to pass the time.

  • Find someone to drive you home and stay with you: Ask a friend or family member to drive you home and stay with you the first night after your surgery.

5 What to Expect

Read on to learn more about what to expect before, during, and after your cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal).

A cholecystectomy is performed using general anesthesia, this will make it possible for you to be unaware during the surgery.

Anesthesia drugs are administered through a vein in your arm. Once the drugs take effect, the health care team will proceed to insert a tube down your throat to act as a breathing aid.

Your surgeon then performs the cholecystectomy using either laparoscopic or open.

Minimally invasive (laparoscopic) cholecystectomy

During laparoscopic cholecystectomy, the surgeon makes four small incisions in your abdomen. A tube with a tiny video camera is inserted into your abdomen through one of the incisions.

Your surgeon watches a video monitor in the operating room as special surgical tools are inserted through the other incisions in your abdomen and your gallbladder is removed.

Next, you'll undergo an imaging test, such as X-ray or ultrasound, to check your bile duct for abnormalities. If your surgeon finds gallstones or other problems in your bile duct, those may be remedied.

Then, your incisions are sutured and you're taken to a recovery area. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy takes one or two hours.

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy isn't appropriate for everyone. In some cases, your surgeon may begin with a laparoscopic approach and find it necessary to make a larger incision because of scar tissue from previous operations or complications.

Traditional (open) cholecystectomy

During open cholecystectomy, your surgeon makes a 6-inch (15-centimeter) incision in your abdomen below your ribs on your right side. The muscle and tissue are pulled back to reveal your liver and gallbladder. Your surgeon then removes the gallbladder.

The incision is sutured, and you're taken to a recovery area. Open cholecystectomy takes one or two hours.

After cholecystectomy

You will be taken to a recovery area as the anesthesia drugs wear off. Then you'll be taken to a hospital room to continue recovery.

Recovery varies depending on your procedure:

  • Laparoscopic cholecystectomy: Some individuals are often capable of going home the same day as their surgery, though sometimes a one-night stay in the hospital is needed. In general, you can expect to go home once you're able to eat and drink without pain and are able to walk unaided. It takes about a week to fully recover.
  • Open cholecystectomy: Expect to spend two or three days in the hospital recovering. Once at home, it may take four to six weeks to make a full recovery.

6 Procedure Results

The results of the procedure will be given by your doctor. A cholecystectomy can relieve pain and discomfort of gallstones.

Conservative treatments like dietary modifications, cannot always prevent gallstones from recurring. Cholecystectomy is the sole solution to preventing the recurring of gallstones.

Some individuals experience mild diarrhea after undergoing a cholecystectomy, though this usually subsides with time. The majority of individuals will not experience digestive complications after a cholecystectomy.

Your gallbladder is not an essential unit of your digestive system. The rate at which you return to your normal activities after a cholecystectomy depends on which procedure the doctor uses and your overall health.

Individuals undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy may be able to return to their work in a matter of days. Those who undergo open cholecystectomy may need a week or more of recovery to get back to their work.