Gall Bladder Removal (Cholecystectomy)

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy, or gallbladder removal, is a minimally invasive procedure that eliminates the pain and discomfort associated with gallbladder disease. The gallbladder is often removed because the patient has chronic and painful gallstones or has a stubborn inflammation that will not go away with other treatment. Many Americans have gallstones, but only a small subset of these patients experience symptomatic gallstones. Symptoms usually occur when a gallstone limits bile’s outflow, causing significant pain, nausea, and other debilitating symptoms. Once the patient has had their first gallstone attack, these episodes will likely become more frequent and more painful as time goes on.

Many patients will find advertisements for diets or supplements that claim to dissolve and eliminate gallstones when researching online. There is simply no evidence that these work and, in many cases, can even be dangerous. The only curative procedure for symptomatic gallstones is the complete removal of the gallbladder – a straightforward process performed on over 1 million Americans every year.

The risks for gallbladder disease

Gallstones affect women disproportionately when compared to men. Other risk factors include excess weight, significant weight loss, middle age, and fertility.

Leaving gallbladder issues untreated can be risky, as there is the potential for a gallstone to lodge itself in the common bile duct. Gallbladder disease may also increase the risk of pancreatitis – inflammation of the pancreas.

How do I know it’s my gallbladder?

The gallbladder is attached to the liver in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, just under the base of the rib cage. Gallbladder disease is often characterized by very general abdominal symptoms typically have specific timing. A gallbladder attack will often occur shortly after a meal, especially if it is large or particularly fatty, as these trigger the gallbladder to contract. Episodes will usually resolve in a short period but may vary in intensity. The location of the pain is also helpful in diagnosing gallbladder disease.

How Is a Cholecystectomy Performed?

Three to four small incisions are made in the abdomen through which specialized, miniaturized medical devices are passed. The procedure can be performed with traditional laparoscopy or robotically. The surgeon can visualize the gallbladder and surrounding structures using a high-definition camera known as a laparoscope. We clamp both the artery that supplies blood to the gallbladder and the bile duct during surgery, using special titanium clips that remain in the body permanently. After cutting away the gallbladder, it is removed through the largest of the incisions in the abdomen.

The laparoscopic and robotically assisted nature of modern cholecystectomies leads to less bleeding, less pain, shorter recovery time, and fewer risks. The exact recovery time will depend on a person’s general health and how the procedure progresses. In general, however, patients will be discharged on the same day as surgery. In very few cases, the surgery may have to be performed in an open manner, which may require a hospital stay and longer recovery.

Once the gallbladder is removed, patients will have no dietary restrictions and will be able to resume somewhat regular activity within 2 to 3 weeks after surgery. The removed gallbladder is sent to a lab to be tested for any possible problems, including cancer, which is uncommon. Further treatment, if necessary, will be scheduled accordingly.

Occasionally, weight loss surgery patients may have the option to remove their gallbladder during the same operation. Please discuss this with your bariatric surgeon during your consultation.

Despite being performed laparoscopically, cholecystectomy is major surgery, as are all of our procedures. This means it comes with certain inherent risks, which should be discussed with your medical team and our office during your consultation.

We look forward to speaking with you about your surgical needs.