The surgery to remove the gallbladder is called a cholecystectomy (say "co-lee-sist-eck-toe-mee"). During traditional surgery, the gallbladder is removed through a 5- to 8-inch-long incision (cut) in your abdomen. The cut is made just below your ribs on the right side and goes to just below your waist. This is called an open cholecystectomy.
A newer way to remove the gallbladder is called laparoscopic (say "lap-are-oh-skop-ick") cholecystectomy. During this surgery, a laparoscope (a small, thin tube with a camera on the tip of it that is used to see the inside of your body) is used to remove the gallbladder. Several small incisions are used instead of one large incision.
The laparoscope is put into your body through a tiny cut made just below your navel (belly button). Your doctor can then see your gallbladder on a TV screen and do the surgery with tools inserted in 3 other small cuts made in the right upper part of your abdomen. Your gallbladder is then taken out through one of the incisions.
Laparoscopic cholecystectomy may allow you to return to work more quickly, have less pain after surgery, have a shorter hospital stay and have a shorter recovery time. Unlike traditional surgery, laparoscopic surgery to remove the gallbladder can be done without cutting the muscles of your abdomen. The incision is also much smaller and the scars are much less noticeable than those made by traditional cholecystectomy.
If you had surgery around your gallbladder before, if you tend to bleed a lot or if you have any problem that would make it hard for your doctor to see your gallbladder, an open surgery may be better for you. Your doctor will decide which type of surgery is appropriate for you.
Complications are rare but may include bleeding, infection and injury to the duct (tube) that carries bile from your gallbladder to your stomach. Also, during laparoscopic cholecystectomy, the intestines or major blood vessels may be injured when the instruments are inserted into the abdomen. Remember, all of these complications are rare.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff