The surgery to remove the gallbladder is called a cholecystectomy (chol-e-cys-tec-toe-mee). The gallbladder is removed through a 5 to 8 inch long incision, or cut, in your abdomen. During an open cholecystectomy, the cut is made just below your ribs on the right side and goes to just below your waist.
A less invasive way to remove the gallbladder is called laparoscopic cholecystectomy. This surgery uses a laparoscope (an instrument used to see the inside of your body) to remove the gallbladder. It is performed through several small incisions rather than through one large incision, usually 3 incisicons, each one inch or less in length.
What is a laparoscope and how is it used to remove the gallbladder?
A laparoscope is a small, thin tube that is put into your body through a tiny cut made just below your navel. Your surgeon can then see your gallbladder on a television screen and do the surgery with tools inserted in three other small cuts made in the right upper part of your abdomen. Your gallbladder is then taken out through one of the incisions.
Are there any benefits of laparoscopic cholecystectomy compared with open cholecystectomy?
With laparoscopic cholecystectomy, you may return to work sooner, have less pain after surgery, and have a shorter hospital stay and a shorter recovery time. Surgery to remove the gallbladder with a laparoscope does not require that the muscles of your abdomen be cut, as they are in open surgery. The incision is much smaller, which makes recovery go quicker.
With laparoscopic cholecystectomy, you probably will only have to stay in the hospital for a few hours or overnight. With open cholecystectomy, you would have to stay in the hospital for about five days. Because the incisions are smaller with laparoscopic cholecystectomy, there isn’t as much pain after this operation as after open cholecystectomy.
What is the Gallbladder?
The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ that rests beneath the right side of the liver.
Its main purpose is to collect and concentrate a digestive liquid (bile) produced by the liver. Bile is released from the gallbladder after eating, aiding digestion. Bile travels through narrow tubular channels (bile ducts) into the small intestine.
Removal of the gallbladder is not associated with any impairment of digestion in most people.
How long will you be in the hospital?
Once a diet is tolerated, patients leave the hospital. Most patients go home the next day after a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Some may even go home the same day the operation is performed. This compares with a five day stay following the open cholecystectomy procedure.
What is the recovery period and how soon can you go back to work?
Patients will probably be able to get back to normal activities within a week’s time, including driving, walking up stairs, light lifting and work. Activity is dependent on how the patient feels. Walking is encouraged. Patients can remove the dressings and shower the day after the operation. In general, recovery should be progressive, once the patient is at home.
Most patients are fully recovered and may go back to work after seven to ten days.
Often, this depends on the nature of your job since patients who perform manual labor or heavy lifting may require two to four weeks of recovery.
What should you be concerned about after going home?
The development of fever, yellow skin or eyes, worsening abdominal pain, distention, persistent nausea or vomiting, or drainage from the incision are indications that a complication may have occurred. You should contact your surgeon under these circumstances.