Gallbladder removal surgery, or cholecystectomy, is a procedure in which the gallbladder is removed. The procedure is necessary when gallstones block the flow of bile. Cholecystectomies are fairly common procedures, with few risks of complications, and patients can usually go home the same day as their outpatient surgery.
The gallbladder is an organ that’s shaped like a pear, and it is located below the liver in the right side of the abdomen. The gallbladder’s purpose is to collect and store bile, which is a digestive fluid that is made in the liver. When gallstones block bile flow, removal surgery will be performed on the gallbladder.
At La Peer Health Systems, our general and colorectal surgeons perform cholecystectomies. Our surgeons are highly experienced and received training at some of the country’s finest medical programs. Our surgeons go above and beyond the call of duty to help patients address gallstones and other gallbladder issues.
WHAT ARE GALLSTONES?
Gallstones are collections of material deposits that form in the gallbladder. They are composed of cholesterol, bilirubin or other materials.
GALLSTONE SYMPTOMS & TREATMENT
A lot of people don’t experience symptoms when they have gallstones. Most of the time, people experience symptoms if the gallstones are blocking a bile duct. The most common symptoms of gallstones include:
- Clay-colored stools
- Yellowing of the skin
- Abdominal pain
Acute gallstones are treated through the removal of the gallbladder. It is recommended you have a cholecystectomy if gallstones form in either the gallbladder (cholelithiasis) or the bile duct (choledocholithiasis). Doctors will also recommend gallbladder removal if inflammation occurs to the gallbladder (cholecystitis) or the pancreas (pancreatitis).
TYPES GALLBLADDER REMOVAL SURGERIES
Gallbladder removal surgery can be performed one of two ways:
- Open Surgery: An open cholecystectomy utilizes a large open incision to remove the gallbladder.
- Laparoscopic Surgery: A laparoscopic procedure is minimally invasive and performed through much smaller incisions. Laparoscopic gallbladder removals offer a reduced risk of infection, quicker healing times and less scarring after surgery in comparison to open gallbladder removal procedures.
LAPAROSCOPIC CHOLECYSTECTOMY PROCEDURE
Laparoscopic cholecystectomy surgery, popularly referred to as Lap Chole, is a minimally-invasive procedure for removing the gallbladder or gallstones. This procedure utilizes a thin tube with a small camera on the end known as a laparoscope. The laparoscope allows for the removal of the gallbladder in such a way that does not require large incisions. Instead, several smaller incisions are made through which the laparoscope and special instruments are inserted and the gallbladder is removed. This technique greatly reduces recovery time and post-op pain in addition to its very high rate of success. Renowned general and colorectal surgeons at La Peer Health Systems are very experienced with the Lap Chole procedure, making La Peer the top option for gallbladder removal in Los Angeles.
A laparoscopic cholecystectomy is done through four smaller incisions less than a half-inch in size. Special instruments and a video camera (laparoscope) are inserted through these incisions, giving the surgeon access to the abdominal cavity with nominal intrusion. A monitor that displays the detailed picture from the laparoscope is used as the surgeon’s eyes during the procedure.
While the laparoscope is inserted through one of the incisions, specially designed medical instruments are inserted through the others. These small instruments are used to gently disconnect the gallbladder from the liver and the bile duct. From there, the gallbladder is removed through one of the incisions. A special X-ray known as a cholangiogram may be taken in order for the surgical team to detect any possible stones in the bile duct. Once the gallbladder is extracted, the small incisions are sutured up and you, the patient, are taken to a recovery room. All told, laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery lasts about one or two hours.
There are many benefits to the laparoscopic approach over the traditional cholecystectomy. Much of the benefit resides in the fact that the minimally-invasive laparoscopic procedure requires only three to four tiny incisions in the abdomen, as opposed to the large incision that’s necessary for an open cholecystectomy. Since this type of procedure is minimally-invasive, there is less trauma to the surrounding tissue. The traditional procedure calls for larger incisions, possible movement or displacement of internal organs, and the cutting of abdominal muscles. These lead to increased pain and a longer recovery period. Since there is little disruption to the surrounding tissue and organs, patients are able to return to work and activities a lot quicker. At La Peer, the laparoscopic cholecystectomy is done in an outpatient setting that allows the patient to go home the same day of surgery. The traditional method can come with a hospital stay of up to a week following surgery.
BENEFITS OF LAPAROSCOPIC CHOLECYSTECTOMY
The benefits of laparoscopic cholecystectomy surgery include:
- Less pain
- Shorter hospital stay
- Shorter overall recovery time
- Faster return to activity
- Reduced risk of complications
CANDIDATES FOR MINIMALLY INVASIVE GALLBLADDER SURGERY
The cholecystectomy procedure is performed when conditions or circumstances require the removal of the gallbladder. The laparoscopic cholecystectomy is a newer, minimally-invasive alternative to the traditional cholecystectomy, which requires a much larger incision and more invasive techniques.
Some conditions that would necessitate the removal of the gallbladder include:
- Cholecystitis – Inflammation of the gallbladder
- Gallbladder cancer risks such as calcium deposits (porcelain gallbladder)
- Chronic gallstones – Which can lead to further complications like pancreatitis
- Biliary Colic – Pain caused by gallstones
PREPARING FOR LAPAROSCOPIC GALLBLADDER SURGERY
Gallbladder surgery is performed under general anesthesia, which means that patients are asleep during the procedure. Therefore, to prepare for cholecystectomy, your surgeon may ask you to do the following:
- Drink a prescription solution to flush stool out of your intestines.
- Other than a sip of water with your medications, eat nothing the night before your surgery or at least six hours before surgery.
- Stop taking certain medications and supplements. Your doctor will specify which medications you are allowed or not allowed to take.
- Shower using a special, antibacterial soap given to you by your doctor.
- Prep for a possible hospital stay in case of possible complications. Most people go home the same day of surgery, but just in case, you should bring some personal items (i.e. toothbrush, clothing, and books or magazines) to help you pass the time.
- Arrange for a close friend or member of the family to drive you home or stay close by for the first night after your surgery.
GALLBLADDER SURGERY RECOVERY
Following gallbladder removal surgery, patients are taken to a postoperative recovery area. Here, a patient’s vital signs, pain level and incision site will be monitored until an individual can return home.
Most patients are allowed to go home after their same day surgery, though occasionally a one-night hospital stay might be required if complications or other issues were to arise. The general rule is that patients can go home once they are able to eat and drink without pain in addition to walking without help.
The recovery time from gallbladder surgery may last up to six weeks. Mild to moderate pain is common after gallbladder surgery. In some instances, pain-relieving medications prescribed following surgery may cause constipation.
WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER GALLBLADDER SURGERY
During the gallbladder surgery recovery period, a patient should try to walk around frequently to limit the risk of blood clots and drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Also, a patient should avoid heavy lifting for four to six weeks.
A doctor may recommend a high-fiber diet after gallbladder removal surgery. This diet may help a patient pass stools. Additionally, a doctor may prescribe a stool softener or laxative to reduce straining.
In some instances, patients struggle to digest fatty foods for the first month after gallbladder surgery. To address this problem, a doctor may recommend a low-fat diet.
Following surgery, the gallbladder is no longer able to regulate the flow of bile. This may cause temporary diarrhea in the initial days after treatment. If diarrhea lingers for more than three days after surgery, a patient should contact his or her doctor.
GALLBLADDER SURGERY COMPLICATIONS
There are many potential gallbladder surgery complications, and these include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Blood clots
- Blood vessel damage
- Bile duct or small intestine issues
- Allergic reaction to general anesthesia
- Heart problems
The risk of complications following gallbladder surgery is low. However, if a patient experiences any complications after treatment, this individual should contact his or her doctor immediately.
CONTACT AN EXPERIENCED SURGEON
If you have experienced any of the conditions or symptoms mentioned, please call the Department of General and Colorectal Surgery at La Peer Health Systems at 855-360-9119, email us, or fill out our online contact form to schedule an appointment.
Next, read about Hemorrhoidectomy.