Gallbladder Surgery (Cholecystectomy)

You may need gallbladder surgery, or cholecystectomy, if your gallbladder contains gallstones, is inflamed or infected, or if it contains cancer.

Your gallbladder is a small organ that sits under your liver and helps with digestion. It stores bile, a fluid made by the liver that helps break down fats. But it is not a vital organ. You can live without your gallbladder with few side effects. The liver still produces bile to digest fats.

There are a couple ways to do gallbladder surgery. The type of surgery you have depends on what kind of repair you need.

Before the Procedure

Before surgery, you may have a physical exam, blood tests, or other kinds of tests.

Your surgeon will explain what happens during the procedure. He or she will also talk with you about any risks or complications that may happen. This is the time to ask any questions you have about the procedure. You'll be asked to sign a consent form that gives your health care provider permission to do the procedure. Read the form carefully and ask questions if anything is not clear.

You'll be asked to not eat or drink for at least eight hours before the surgery. If you're a woman, be sure to tell your health care provider if you are pregnant, or might be pregnant. Tell your health care provider about all the medications and supplements you take, if you have any allergies and ask your doctor ahead of time if there are any medications you should stop taking before your surgery.

What to Expect

When you're ready for surgery, you'll be given general anesthesia to put you into a sleep-like state.

For laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon makes several small cuts or incisions in your belly. A small amount of carbon dioxide gas may be used to inflate your belly.

A thin tube with a camera and light called a laparoscope is put through one incision so the surgeon can clearly see your organs with the

Surgery tools are put through the other incisions.

The gallbladder is taken out through one of the incisions.

The scope and other instruments are then removed.

If you have open surgery, a two- to three-inch incision is made in the upper right side of your belly.

The surgeon will gently push aside your abdominal muscles and liver, and take out the gallbladder through this incision.

During surgery, your surgeon may use an X-ray to look at the bile ducts inside of your liver. A special contrast dye is injected into your bile system and an X-ray is taken. This will show any gallstones that may still be in the bile duct system. If any stones are found, the surgeon will take them out.

The incision or incisions are then closed with stitches or surgical glue.

After the Procedure

After the surgery, your gallbladder will be sent to a lab for tests.
You will be moved to a recovery room and given pain medication. You may go home later the same day, or the next day. If you have any complications, you may need to stay in the hospital longer.

When you're allowed to go home, you'll be given a prescription for pain medication. You may also be given a prescription for antibiotics.

Once you're home, make sure to follow all the instructions you've been given. Get plenty of rest.

Hold onto your belly when you cough or laugh for the first few days after your surgery. This can help to prevent pain.

You can go back to work, shower, and do other normal activities when your doctor says it's OK.

What We Have Learned

You must have your gallbladder in order to digest food. True or false? The answer is false. Your liver produces bile to digest fats, and the gallbladder stores it. Most people can live without a gallbladder and have few or no problems.

If any other gallstones are found in other ducts during surgery, they'll be left in place. True or false? The answer is false. If other stones are found in other ducts, the stones are removed.