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Cholecystectomy—Laparoscopic Surgery

(Gallbladder Removal; Lap Chole)

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition | Reasons for Procedure | Possible Complications | What to Expect | Call Your Doctor

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Definition

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 open surgery. This involves a larger incision in the abdomen.

Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy vs. Open Cholecystectomy

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Procedure

This surgery is used to remove a diseased or damaged gallbladder. The damage is typically caused by infection or inflammation. The damage is often due to gallstones, 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.

Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a cholecystectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Gallstones that have accidentally entered the abdominal cavity
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Injury to other nearby structures or organs
  • Reactions to general anesthesia
  • Blood clots

Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Increased age
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Malnutrition
  • Recent or chronic illness
  • Diabetes
  • Heart or lung problems
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Alcoholism and use of illegal drugs
  • Use of certain medications

What to Expect

Your doctor will probably do some or all of the following:

  • Blood tests to evaluate liver function
  • Ultrasound 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 intestines
  • EKG and chest x-ray —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 current medicines. Certain medicines may need to be stopped before the procedure, such as:
    • Ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory drugs
    • Blood-thinning medications
    • Anti-platelet medications
  • Arrange 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 enema
    • Antibiotics
  • If instructed, shower before the procedure. You may be given special soap to use.

General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep for the procedure.

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 small 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 small openings. Dye may be injected into the duct to look for stones. 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.

About 30-60 minutes

You will have pain after the procedure. Your doctor will give you pain medicine.

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 problems
  • Give you medicines for nausea
  • Provide you with nutrition through an IV if you have a tube in your stomach to drain fluid
  • Help you to slowly progress from a liquid diet to soft foods

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

After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge at the incision site
  • Cough, shortness of breath, chest pain
  • Increased abdominal pain
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medications you have been given
  • Blood in the stool
  • Nausea and/or vomiting that you cannot control with the medications you were given, or which last for more than two days
  • Bloating and gas that persist for more than a month
  • Pain, burning, urgency or frequency of urination, or blood in the urine
  • Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
  • Dark urine, light stools, or yellowing of the skin or eyes

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES:

American Gastroenterological Association

http://www.gastro.org

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse

http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology

http://www.cag-acg.org

Canadian Digestive Health Foundation

http://www.cdhf.ca

References:

About cholecystectomy: surgical removal of the gallbladder. American College of Surgeons. Medem website. Available at: http://www.medem.com/search/article_display.cfm?path=\\TANQUERAY\M_ContentIte. Accessed July 11, 2008.

Cholecystectomy. American College of Surgeons website. Available at: 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 in situ. Br J Surg. 2006;93:1185-91.

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. Apr 2006;19(2):CD003327.

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 May 2013 by Marcin Chwistek, MD; 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.