The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ just under your liver. It stores bile, the digestive fluid the liver makes to digest fat. Sometimes the gallbladder gets inflamed. This happens when the flow of bile is blocked. This can be caused by gallstones (hard deposits that form), injury, or other conditions. When this happens, you may experience pain and other symptoms. Your doctor may want to remove your gallbladder. Fortunately, we don’t need our gallbladders to live. So removal usually doesn’t cause complications.
Path to improved health
The surgery to remove the gallbladder is called a cholecystectomy. During traditional surgery, the gallbladder is removed through a 5- to 8-inch-long incision (cut) in your abdomen. This is called an open cholecystectomy.
The more common way to remove the gallbladder is called a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. During this surgery, 3 to 4 small incisions (cuts) are made in your belly. Then instruments are inserted through the cuts. The surgeon uses the instruments to look at the gallbladder and remove it.
One of the instruments used is called a laparoscope. This is a small, thin tube with a camera and light on the tip. The camera is used to see the inside of your body. The camera shows your gallbladder on a TV screen. This allows the doctor to see the gallbladder while he or she removes it. They will do this using the tools inserted in the other cuts. Your gallbladder is then taken out through one of the incisions.
After the gallbladder is removed, your doctor will clamp off all of the bile ducts. He or she will close the incisions with stitches, staples, or glue. The procedure takes 1 to 2 hours. Most people go home the same day or the day after the surgery.
What are the benefits of this type of surgery?
Laparoscopic gallbladder removal has many advantages. Unlike traditional surgery, laparoscopic surgery can be done without cutting the muscles of your abdomen. This may allow you to:
- Have less pain after surgery.
- Have a shorter hospital stay.
- Have a shorter recovery time.
- Return to work more quickly.
- Have much less noticeable scars than with a traditional cholecystectomy.
Who shouldn’t have this type of surgery?
Laparoscopic surgery is not the best choice for everyone. An open surgery may be better if you:
- Had surgery around your gallbladder before.
- Tend to bleed a lot.
- Have any problem that would make it hard for your doctor to see your gallbladder.
Your doctor will decide which type of surgery is appropriate for you.
Things to consider
As with any surgery, there could be complications. These are rare but could include:
- injury to the duct (tube) that carries bile from your gallbladder to your stomach
- bile leakage.
In addition, the intestines, liver, or major blood vessels may be injured when the instruments are inserted into the abdomen. Remember, all of these complications are rare. But if you are experiencing unusual pain after gallbladder surgery, call your doctor right away.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Do I need to have my gallbladder removed?
- Which type of surgery is best for me?
- What are the risks of laparoscopic surgery?
- How long will I be in the hospital?
- How long will it take me to recover?
- What signs of complications should I watch out for?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.