Gallbladder Surgery: What To Expect

A medicine,pointing at a plastic model of a gall bladder. Image taken with Canon EOS 1 Ds Mark II and EF 70-200 mm USM L 2,8. XXL size image.

Gallbladder removal surgery (Cholecystectomy) is a medical procedure performed to provide relief to patients with gallbladder stones and other gallbladder-related problems.

Located under the liver, the gallbladder is a small organ connected to the liver and the small intestine through a series of tubes. It is responsible for storing and concentrating bile, a yellowish-green fluid needed to digest fats.

Sometimes bile can cause a blockage in ducts where it usually empties. This can lead to the development of gallstones. These are hard deposits of bile that can get stuck in the gallbladder. When left untreated , gallstones can migrate to other ducts, causing symptoms like pain (usually in the right upper quadrant), fever, nausea, and vomiting. It can also lead to cholecystitis or inflammation of the gallbladder. This can be a life-threatening condition leading to rupture of the organ.

 

Different Types of Gallbladder Surgery

Cholecystectomy is a medical procedure that involves removal of the gallbladder. It is one of the most common procedures performed by the physicians of Premier Surgical in Knoxville. Cholecystectomy is normally performed laparoscopically, however, sometimes in cases of severe infection or inflammation of the gallbladder, a traditional open approach may be used.

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is less invasive than an open gallbladder removal. With the laparoscopic approach, the surgeon will make several small incisions in the abdomen. He or she then uses a hollow tube called a laparoscope to get into the small incision made under the navel. This tube has a tiny telescope attached to a lighted camera which helps the surgeon in seeing the interior of the abdomen. During the surgery, special instruments are inserted into the other keyholes made on the abdomen.

If an open cholecystectomy is needed, the surgeon makes a 4 to 6-inch incision on the right upper quadrant of the abdomen. This allows the surgeon  to then lift the liver and carefully remove the gallbladder. The incision site is closed and sutured. A small drain may be placed going from the inside to the outside of the abdomen, and is removed in the hospital. Because this procedure involves a bigger incision, it requires a longer stay in the hospital. The recovery period is also longer for this type of surgery.

 

What to Expect

Prior to Surgery

Depending on the medications a patient is taking, the doctor may have the patient temporarily stop taking some of those medications a few days prior to the procedure. The night before the surgery, the patient will usually be advised to avoid eating or drinking (except for sips of water for medications) after midnight.

During the Surgery

Gallbladder surgery is done under general anesthesia. Once the anesthetic drug has taken effect, a tube is inserted down the throat to help the patient breathe.

In a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, the surgeon only makes small incisions on the abdomen where the laparoscope and other instruments are inserted. Once the gallbladder has been removed the patient may undergo imaging studies such as an X-ray or ultrasound to make sure that there are no other abnormalities in the bile duct. When no other abnormalities are found, the incisions are sutured and the patient is taken to recovery. Premier Surgical physicians normally perform this procedure in less than an hour.

If a patient undergoes an open cholecystectomy, a 4 to 6-inch incision will be made on the right side of the body, just below the ribs. The muscles and the tissues are pulled back to reveal and remove the gallbladder. Once it has been removed, the incision is sutured and patient is taken to the recovery area. This typically takes one to two hours.

After the Surgery

In the recovery area, the patient will be continually monitored until the effect of the anesthesia wears off. Recovery period depends on the type of gallbladder surgery undergone.

Patients who undergo an open cholecystectomy generally have to stay a few  days (about 2 to 3 days) in the hospital before they are able to go home. They can normally expect to recover in four to six weeks.

Recovery period is shorter for those who undergo laparoscopic cholecystectomy. In most cases, the patient can go home on the same day of the surgery. Recovery after laparoscopic cholecystectomy can be expected to take roughly a week.

Shot of a doctor talking to a patient in a wheelchair in a hospital corridor

Gallbladder removal can relieve pain, treat infection, and in most cases stop gallstones from coming back. The surgeons of Premier Surgical in Knoxville are certified by the American Board of Surgery and have specialized knowledge in the diagnosis, pre-operative, operative, and post-operative management of gallbladder removal.

For more information about the general surgeries procedures performed by Premier Surgical physicians, please visit our General Surgery webpage.

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