Gallbladder Surgery (Cholecystectomy)


Gallbladder removal surgery, also referred to as a cholecystectomy, is a very common surgery.

The gallbladder is a small, pouch-like organ in the upper right part of your abdomen.

It stores bile, a fluid formed by the liver that helps break down fatty foods.

You really don’t need a gallbladder, so surgery to take it out is often recommended if you develop any issues with it.

Why does my gallbladder need to be removed?

Surgery to remove the gallbladder is usually performed if you have painful gallstones.

These are small stones that can be produced in the gallbladder due to of an imbalance in the substances that make up bile. (acute cholecystitis)

Gallstones often show no symptoms and you may not recognize you have them, but occasionally they can block the flow of bile and aggravate the gallbladder or pancreas (acute pancreatitis).

This can cause symptoms such as:

  • Sudden and intense abdominal pain
  • Feeling and being ill
  • Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice)

Very occasionally it may be possible to take medicine to dissolve gallstones, but surgery to remove the gallbladder is the most effective treatment in the huge majority of cases.

What happens during gallbladder removal surgery?

There are 2 main ways of removing a gallbladder:

  • Laparoscopic (keyhole) cholecystectomy – Quite a few small cuts (incisions) are made in your abdomen and fine surgical tools are used to access and remove your gallbladder
  • Open cholecystectomy – A single larger incision is made in your abdomen to access and remove your gallbladder

Keyhole surgery is often used because you will have the chance to leave the hospital sooner, recover faster and be left with smaller scars than with an open surgery.

Both methods are carried out under general anaesthetic, which means you'll be asleep during the procedure and won't feel any pain while it's carried out.

Recovering from gallbladder removal surgery

It doesn't normally take long to recuperate from keyhole surgery to remove your gallbladder.

Some people can leave the hospital the same day or the next morning.

You'll perhaps be able to return to most of your regular activities within 2 weeks.

It takes more time to recover from open surgery. You may need to remain in hospital for 3 to 5 days and it could be 6 to 8 weeks before you fall back to normal.

Living without a gallbladder

You can lead a perfectly standard life without a gallbladder.

Your liver will still make sufficient bile to digest your food, but instead of being stored in the gallbladder, it trickles constantly into your digestive system.

You may have been advised to eat a certain diet before surgery, but this doesn't need to be continued afterwards. Instead, you should target to have a generally healthy, balanced diet.

Most people experience problems such as bloating or diarrhoea after the operation, although this usually improves within a few weeks. 

If you observe certain foods or drinks trigger these symptoms, you may wish to stay away from them in the future.

Risks of gallbladder removal surgery

Gallbladder removal surgery is considered to be a secure procedure, but, like every type of surgery, there's a risk of complications.

Possible complications include:

  • Wound infection
  • Bile leaking into the abdomen
  • Damage to any of the openings (ducts) carrying bile out of the liver
  • Blood clots

Speak to your surgeon about the benefits and risks of surgery prior to your operation.







DisclaimerThe information provided herein is for patient general knowledge only and should not be used during any medical emergency, or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Duplication for personal and commercial use must be authorized in writing by

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