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What is a cholecystectomy?

A cholecystectomy is a procedure to remove your gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small organ under your liver that stores a digestive juice called bile which is made in the liver; it is on the upper right side of your abdomen.

 


Why does a cholecystectomy need to be performed?

A cholecystectomy may be done if your gallbladder:

  • Have lumps of solid material, known as gallstones
  • Is red or swollen or infected
  • Is cancerous

Gallbladder problems may cause pain which:

  • Is usually on the right side or middle of your upper abdomen
  • May be constant or may get worse after a heavy meal
  • May sometimes feel more like fullness than pain
  • May be felt in your back and in the tip of your right shoulder blade

Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills.

 


What are the risks and possible complications of gallbladder surgery?

All surgeries have risks, gallbladder surgery risks can include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Injury to the common bile duct or nearby organs
  • Blood clots in the legs
  • Bile leaks
  • A hernia at incision site
  • Pneumonia

 


Having laparoscopic cholecystectomy

Small incisions are made in your abdomen, and the scope is put through one of the incisions. Surgical tools are put through other incisions. Small clips are used to close the connection between the gallbladder and the bile duct. The gallbladder can be detached from the liver. The gallbladder is removed through one of the incisions; bile still flows from the liver to the small intestine.

Once the surgery is done, all tools are removed, and incisions are closed with stitches or staples. Sometimes, a laparoscopic surgery may need to be changed to an open surgery using one large incision. This change may occur because of scar tissue, unusual anatomy or for some other reason.

 


Before your surgery

  • Tell your physician what medicines you take including prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, street drugs, herbs, vitamins and other supplements. Be sure to mention if you take prescription blood thinners including warfarin, clopidogrel, ibuprofen, and aspirin.
  • If you drink alcohol, tell your physician how much you drink; this is very important if you are a heavy drinker or have had alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the past. Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous, but the symptoms can be safely managed if your physician knows your alcohol history.
  • Have any tests your physician asks for, such as blood tests.
  • Do not eat or drink after midnight the night before your surgery; this includes water, coffee, and mints.

 


The day of the surgery

  • Your physician may have you take your normal medicine with a sip of water; be sure to check with him or her first.
  • An IV will be inserted into your arm or hand to give you fluids and medicine.
  • An anesthesiologist will talk with you about anesthesia; this is medicine used to prevent pain. You’ll receive general anesthesia which puts you into a deep sleep-like state through the procedure.

 


During the surgery

For this surgery, a thin tube with a tiny camera is used called a laparoscope. The scope sends images from inside your body to a video screen allowing the surgeon to view and work on your gallbladder.

Small incisions are made in your abdomen, and the scope is put through one of the incisions. Surgical tools are put through other incisions. Small clips are used to close the connection between the gallbladder and the bile duct. The gallbladder can be detached from the liver. The gallbladder is removed through one of the incisions; bile still flows from the liver to the small intestine.

Once the surgery is done, all tools are removed, and incisions are closed with stitches or staples. Sometimes, a laparoscopic surgery may need to be changed to an open surgery using one large incision. This change may occur because of scar tissue, unusual anatomy or for some other reason.

 


After surgery

You’ll be sent to a room to wake up from the anesthesia and will likely go home the same day. In some cases, an overnight stay is needed. When you are released to go home, someone will have to drive you.