(Gallbladder Removal, Open Cholecystectomy, Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy)

Procedure Overview

What is a cholecystectomy?

A cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of the gallbladder, an organ located just under the liver on the upper right quadrant of the abdomen. The gallbladder stores and concentrates bile, a substance produced by the liver and used to break down fat for digestion.

Types of cholecystectomies:

The gallbladder may be removed in one of two ways:

  • open method: In this method, a two- to three-inch incision is made in the upper right-hand side of the abdomen. The surgeon locates the gallbladder and removes it through the incision.

  • laparoscopic method: This procedure uses at least three to four small incisions and three or more laparoscopes - small thin tubes with video cameras attached - to visualize the inside of the abdomen during the operation. The surgeon performs the surgery while looking at a TV monitor. The gallbladder is removed through one of the incisions.

A laparoscopic cholecystectomy is considered less invasive and generally requires a shorter recovery time than an open cholecystectomy. Occasionally, the gallbladder may appear severely diseased upon laparoscopic examination or other complications may be apparent, and the surgeon may have to perform an open surgical procedure to remove the gallbladder safely.

Reasons for the Procedure

A cholecystectomy may be performed if the gallbladder contains gallstones (cholelithiasis), is inflamed or infected (cholecystitis), or is cancerous.

Gallbladder inflammation or infection may cause pain which may be described as follows:

  • is generally located on the right side of the upper abdomen

  • may be constant or may become more severe after a heavy meal

  • at times, may feel more like fullness than pain

  • may be experienced in the back and in the tip of the right shoulder blade

Other symptoms of gallbladder inflammation or infection include, but are not limited to, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills.

The symptoms of gallbladder problems may resemble other medical conditions or problems. In addition, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

There may be other reasons for your physician to recommend a cholecystectomy.

Risks of the Procedure

As with any surgical procedure, complications may occur. Some possible complications of cholecystectomy may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • bleeding

  • infection

  • injury to the bile duct - the tube that carries bile from the gallbladder to the small intestine

During laparoscopic cholecystectomy, insertion of the instruments into the abdomen may injure the intestines or blood vessels.

If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your physician.

There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your physician prior to the procedure.

Before the Procedure

  • Your physician will explain the procedure to you and offer you the opportunity to ask any questions that you might have about the procedure.

  • You will be asked to sign a consent form that gives your permission to do the procedure. Read the form carefully and ask questions if something is not clear.

  • In addition to a complete medical history, your physician may perform a physical examination to ensure you are in good health before undergoing the procedure. You may undergo blood or other diagnostic tests.

  • You will be asked not to eat or drink for eight hours before the procedure, generally after midnight.

  • If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your physician.

  • Notify your physician if you are sensitive to or are allergic to any medications, latex, tape, and anesthetic agents (local and general).

  • Notify your physician of all medications (prescribed and over-the-counter) and herbal supplements that you are taking.

  • Notify your physician if you have a history of bleeding disorders or if you are taking any anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medications, aspirin, or other medications that affect blood clotting. It may be necessary for you to stop these medications prior to the procedure.

  • If your procedure is to be done on an outpatient basis, you will need to have someone drive you home afterwards because of the sedation given prior to and during the procedure.

  • The area around the surgical site may be shaved.

  • Based upon your medical condition, your physician may request other specific preparation.

Did You Know?

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