to view an animated version of this procedure.
Cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of the gallbladder. This procedure is most often done laparoscopically. This is done through several small incisions in the abdomen. In some cases, the doctor may switch to
. This involves a larger incision in the abdomen.
Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy vs. Open Cholecystectomy
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This surgery is used to remove a diseased or damaged gallbladder. The damage is typically caused by infection or inflammation.
This is often due to
which are crystals of bile that can form in the gallbladder. Sometimes, these get stuck in the ducts that bile normally flows through. This blockage in the ducts can damage the gallbladder and the liver.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like: Gallstones that have accidentally entered the abdominal cavityBleedingInfectionInjury to other nearby structures or organsReactions to general anesthesiaBlood clots
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as: SmokingDrinking
Chronic diseases, such as
Your doctor will probably do some or all of the following: Blood tests to evaluate liver functionUltrasound
to view gallstones
Hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid (HIDA) scan—an x-ray test that uses a chemical injected into the gall bladder to create pictures of your liver, gallbladder, ducts, and small intestinesEKG
—to make sure that the heart and lungs are healthy enough for surgery
MRI or CT scan to better view the gallbladder
Leading up to your procedure:
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure, like:
Anti-inflammatory drugsBlood thinnersAntiplateletsArrange for a ride to and from the procedure. Also, have someone help you at home.The night before, eat a light meal. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
You may be given:
Laxatives and/or an enemaAntibioticsIf instructed, shower before the procedure. You may be given special soap to use.
Four small openings will be made in your abdomen. Carbon dioxide will be pumped into the abdomen to provide a better view.
The laparoscope will be inserted through one of the openings. It will provide images of the gallbladder and surrounding area. Instruments will be inserted through the other openings. They will be used to grasp the gallbladder and clip off the main artery and duct. The gallbladder will be removed through one of the openings. Dye may be injected into the duct to look for stones, which may be removed if found. The entire abdomen will be carefully examined. The incisions will be closed with sutures or staples. They will be covered with bandages.
A tiny, flexible tube may be placed into the area. This tube will exit from your abdomen into a little bulb. This is to drain fluid. The tube is usually removed within one week.
You will be taken to a recovery room.
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
If you do not have any problems, you may be able to go home the same day as the surgery or the next day.
After the procedure, the hospital staff will: Monitor you for any problemsGive you medications for pain and nauseaProvide you with nutrition through an IV if you have a tube in your stomach to drain fluidHelp you to slowly progress from a liquid diet to soft foods
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection, such as: Washing their handsWearing gloves or masksKeeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection, such as: Washing your hands often and reminding your healthcare providers to do the sameReminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masksNot allowing others to touch your incision
Recovery takes about three weeks. When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery: Follow your doctor’s
instructions.Follow the recommended diet and activity plan.Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
Your liver will take over the functions of the gallbladder. You may notice that you have more trouble digesting fatty foods, especially during the first month of recovery.
Call your doctor if any of these occur: Signs of infection, including fever and chillsRedness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge at the incision siteCough, shortness of breath, chest painIncreased abdominal painPain that you cannot control with the medications you have been givenBlood in the stoolPersistent nausea and/or vomitingBloating and gas that persist for more than a monthPain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legsDark urine, light stools, or yellowing of the skin or eyes
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
About cholecystectomy: surgical removal of the gallbladder. American College of Surgeons. Medem website.
http://www.medem.com/. Accessed July 11, 2008.
Cholecystectomy. American College of Surgeons website.
http://www.facs.org/public_info/operation/cholesys.pdf. Accessed May 28, 2013.
Clayton ES, Connor S, Alexakis N, Leandros E. Meta-analysis of endoscopy and surgery versus surgery alone for common bile duct stones with the gallbladder
Br J Surg.
Gallbladder surgery: laparoscopic cholecystectomy. University of California at Davis website. Available at:
http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/surgery/specialties/gastro/gall.html. Accessed May 28, 2013.
Martin DJ, Wernon DR, Toouli J. Surgical versus endoscopic treatment of bile duct stones.
Cochrane Database Syst Rev.
Patient information for laparoscopic gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy) from SAGES. Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons website. Available at:
http://www.sages.org/publications/patient-information/patient-information-for-laparoscopic-gallbladder-removal-cholecystectomy-from-sages/. Accessed May 28, 2013.
Last reviewed February 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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