What is a cholecystectomy?
A cholecystectomy is surgery to remove your gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small a pear-shaped organ under your liver. It is on the upper right side of your belly or abdomen. The gallbladder stores a digestive juice called bile which is made in the liver. It is a common surgery, and it carries only a small risk of complications. In most cases, you can go home the same day of your cholecystectomy.
Why do you need a cholecystectomy?
The gallbladder collects and stores a liquid called bile that helps your body break down food. Small, hard deposits called gallstones can form in the gallbladder. This is a common condition. If your gallstones cause health problems, doctors might do surgery to remove it. For example, you might need surgery if your gallbladder is no longer working correctly and you have pain.
You may need the surgery if you have one of the below symptoms-
- Sharp pain in your abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
- Jaundice. You might get jaundice if gallstones block your bile duct.
How is the surgery performed?
The most common method is laparoscopic cholecystectomy which is performed by inserting a tiny video camera and special surgical tools through four small incisions to see inside your abdomen and remove the gallbladder. It is commonly used due to its advantages –
- Smaller incision – Several small incisions, each less than 1 inch long, instead of a 5- 7-inch incision for open surgery.
- Less pain than after open surgery.
- Quicker recovery than open surgery – You might go home the same day you have your surgery and go back to regular activities more quickly.
In some cases, one large incision may be used to remove the gallbladder. This is called an open cholecystectomy. An open cholecystectomy might be required instead of a laparoscopic cholecystectomy because of:
- Major scarring from a previous surgery.
- A bleeding disorder.
- A condition that would make it difficult to see through the laparoscope.
Possible Risks and Complications
A surgical gallbladder removal may cause bleeding, infection and pain. These risks are more likely to occur in open surgery than in a laparoscopic procedure.Other possible complications may include –
- Bile leakage
- Injury to the other organs including the intestine
- Inflammation of the pancreas
- Development of blood clots
What to expect from the surgery?
A cholecystectomy can relieve the pain and discomfort of gallstones. In most cases, a cholecystectomy will prevent gallstones from coming back. The recovery depends on which procedure your surgeon uses and your overall health. People undergoing a laparoscopic cholecystectomy may be able to go back to work in a matter of days. Those undergoing an open cholecystectomy may need a week or more to recover enough to return to work.
- After the procedure, once your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing are stable and you are awake and alert, you will be taken to your hospital room.
- You may have a thin plastic tube that goes through your nose into your stomach. This is to remove air that you swallow. The tube will be taken out when your bowels are working normally. You won’t be able to eat or drink until the tube is removed. You will also get pain medicine as needed.
- You may have 1 or more drains in the incision if an open procedure was done. The drains will be removed in a day or so. You might be discharged with the drain still in and covered with a dressing. Follow your provider’s instructions for taking care of it.
- Depending on your situation, you may be given liquids to drink a few hours after surgery. You will slowly be able to eat more solid foods as tolerated.
- Arrangements will be made for a follow-up visit with your provider. This is usually 2 to 3 weeks after surgery.