Cholecystectomy / Gallbladder Removal Surgery
Gallbladder surgery, also known as cholecystectomy, is a minimally invasive surgical procedure during which the gallbladder is separated from the common bile duct and the liver and removed from the abdomen. Since the gallbladder is a non-essential organ and the procedure to remove it is the very safe and effective, surgical removal is typically the best course of action. Approximately 800,000 gallbladders are removed every year and it remains one of the safest general surgical procedures performed today.
The gallbladder is most often removed due to gallstones, which can be small or large. While most people have gallstones, only about 10 to 20% of those people actually have symptoms. Once gallstones become symptomatic, they tend to get worse over time, causing most patients to decide to undergo surgery rather than to suffer through the continued pain.
The vast majority of gallstone removals are performed using minimally invasive, robotic or laparoscopic techniques. This involves three to four tiny incisions in the abdomen through which specially made surgical tools are passed. The largest of these incisions is usually made in the umbilicus, or bellybutton, to minimize visible scarring. A specially-made, high-definition camera is used to guide the surgeon during the procedure.
During surgery, the patient will be sedated under general anesthetic. First, the gallbladder is carefully removed from the liver. At this point the connections to the gallbladder including blood vessels and bile duct are clamped using specially made titanium clips. These clips remain in the body permanently. The gallbladder is then cut away from the vessels and placed in the surgical bag. It is then removed through the belly button. The entire surgery takes between 20 to 30 minutes.
The gallbladder is then sent off to pathology to ensure that there’s no malignancy. Gallstones are not known to substantially increase or cause the incidence of gallbladder cancer, and this form of cancer remains very rare.
Safety and Efficacy of Gallbladder Removal
Removing the gallbladder usually resolves any symptoms associated with gallbladder disease. Further, gallbladder surgery is one of the safest general surgeries currently performed with a very low complication and mortality rate. Risks are further minimized by employing an experienced general surgeon such as those at our practice.
Recovery and Aftercare
The cholecystectomy is most often performed in an outpatient setting, which means that mostpatients return home on the same day of surgery with minimal discomfort and pain. There are very few, if any, dietary or exercise restrictions, however we suggest that patients get back to regular activity slowly so as to not to aggravate their surgical wounds. Most patients return to work within a week, and strenuous activity can often be started within 3 to 4 weeks after surgery. Full aftercare instructions can be found by clicking here.
Risks and Considerations of Gallbladder Surgery
As with any surgical procedure there are risks that include:
- Pain, excess blood loss, infection, and, in very rare cases, death. Gallbladder surgery has specific associated risks which include accidental damage to the organs surrounding the gallbladder. However, this is very rare in the hands of a skilled surgeon.
- After surgery, patients may experience some gastrointestinal disturbance since the bile storage mechanism of the gallbladder is no longer available. Typically this results in some stomach upset and loose stools for a few weeks after surgery. Once the liver becomes accustomed to producing bile more consistently and the intestine more efficient at absorbing the bile and fats, these gastrointestinal issues tend to improve.
- Some patients believe that they will gain weight after gallbladder surgery. This may be the case, but it is not due to the surgical procedure. Instead, patients will find that they can eat a wider range of food than before surgery. Understand that most patients avoided large meals or high-fat items to avoid a gallstone attack. This will not be the case after surgery. Therefore, that self-limiting mechanism is no longer in place, and patients may begin to eat foods that cause them to gain weight.
Recovery from gallbladder surgery is similar to that of other abdominal surgical procedures performed laparoscopically. However, since the gallbladder is removed completely from the body, there are very few postoperative restrictions.