Gallbladder Surgery (Cholecystectomy)

The gallbladder is an organ located beneath the liver that acts as a storage unit for the digestive enzymes and juices (known as bile) produced by the liver. As we consume food, the gallbladder contracts, releasing bile into the digestive system. While it aids with digestion it is not an essential organ and most people can live without and without any significant effects because of its removal. Most gallbladder removals are due to gallstones, while some are due to infection or inflammation.

What Are Gallstones?

Gallstones are hard formations in the gallbladder or the bile duct. Most gallstones form as cholesterol stones, made primarily of cholesterol. Pigment stones are usually smaller than cholesterol stones and are made of bilirubin – these stones are less common.

“Gallstone attacks” occur when a gallstone migrates and blocks the bile duct. These can be very painful. However, gallstones do not always cause symptoms.

While we do not know exactly why or how gallstones form, we know that excess weight, diabetes, family history, certain ethnicities and female hormone replacement therapies are risk factors.

Treatments

The only treatment for symptomatic gallstones or infection of the gallbladder is surgery to remove the gallbladder, a procedure that takes about 30 to 45 minutes. Unfortunately, unlike kidney stones, gallstones cannot be removed in a non-invasive manner. Surgery is performed under general anesthesia either by using 4 small incisions in the abdomen (traditional laparoscopy) or with a single incision (SILS). The gallbladder is separated from the liver and removed through one of the ports in the abdomen.

Patients will remain in the hospital for a few hours (outpatient) and can return to work within a week. There are no dietary restrictions. Lifting heavy objects should be avoided until cleared by our office.

Risks and Considerations of Gallbladder Surgery

  • Gallbladder removal requires general anesthesia
  • The general risks of any surgery include the possibility of pain, blood loss, and infection
  • In a small number of patients, a single incision procedure will have to be converted to traditional laparoscopy. Similarly, some laparoscopic procedures may have to be converted to open surgery. Your surgeon will discuss these possibilities with you at consultation
  • Unintended injury to surrounding organs is minimized by surgeon experience
  • Although rarely, bile leakage may occur

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