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Cholecystectomy

You’ve had painful attacks caused by gallstones. To treat the problem, your doctor wants to remove your gallbladder. This surgery is called cholecystectomy. Removing the gallbladder can relieve pain. It will also prevent future attacks. You can live a healthy life without your gallbladder. You may also be able to go back to eating foods you enjoyed before your gallbladder problems started.

Surgical instrument grasping gallbladder. Another instrument ready to cut cystic duct and artery. Cystic duct and artery have clips to seal them off.
Clips close off the bile duct and blood vessels. The gallbladder is then removed.

Before Your Surgery

  • Tell your provider what medications you take. Include those bought over the counter. Also include herbs or supplements. Be sure to mention if you take prescription blood thinners. This includes Coumadin (warfarin).

  • Have any tests your provider asks for, such as blood tests.

  • Don’t eat or drink after midnight, the night before your surgery. This includes water, coffee, and mints.

The Day of Surgery

When you arrive, you will prepare for surgery.

  • An IV line will be put into a vein in your arm or hand. This gives you fluids and medication.

  • An anesthesiologist will talk with you about anesthesia. This is medication used to prevent pain. You will receive general anesthesia. This puts you into a state like deep sleep through the procedure.

During Surgery

There are two methods for removing the gallbladder. Your doctor will choose which method is safer for you.

  • Laparoscopic cholecystectomy. This is most common. During surgery, 2 to 4 small incisions are made. A thin tube with a camera is used. This is called a laparoscope. The scope is put through one of the incisions. It sends images to a video screen. Surgical tools are put through other incisions. The gallbladder is removed using the scope and these tools.

  • Open cholecystectomy. One larger incision is made. The surgeon sees and works through this incision. Open surgery is most often used when scarring or other factors make it a better choice for you.

In some cases, safety requires a change from laparoscopic to open surgery during the procedure.

After Surgery

You will be sent to a room to wake up from the anesthesia. You will likely go home the same day. In some cases, an overnight stay is needed. When you are released to go home, have a family member or friend ready to drive you.

Risks and Possible Complications of Gallbladder Surgery

All surgeries have risks. The risks of gallbladder surgery include:

  • Bleeding

  • Infection

  • Injury to the common bile duct or nearby organs

  • Blood clots in the legs

  • Prolonged diarrhea

  • Bile leaks

  • Hernia at incision site

Online Medical Reviewer: Immerman, Steven C, MD
Last Review Date: 9/17/2012
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