Gallbladder removal surgery, also known as a cholecystectomy, is a common procedure to remove the gallbladder, a small, pouch-like organ located in the upper right part of the abdomen that stores bile. Bile is a fluid produced by the liver that helps break down fatty foods. The gallbladder is not an essential organ, so surgery to remove it is often recommended if problems develop.
The most common reason for gallbladder removal is the presence of painful gallstones. These are small stones that can form in the gallbladder as a result of an imbalance in the substances that make up bile. Gallstones can cause no symptoms, but occasionally they can block the flow of bile and irritate the gallbladder or pancreas, causing symptoms such as sudden and intense abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and jaundice. Surgery to remove the gallbladder is the most effective treatment in most cases.
There are two main ways to remove a gallbladder: laparoscopic (keyhole) cholecystectomy and open cholecystectomy. In a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, several small incisions are made in the abdomen and fine surgical instruments are used to access and remove the gallbladder. In an open cholecystectomy, a single larger incision is made in the abdomen to access and remove the gallbladder. Keyhole surgery is used most often because it allows for a faster recovery and smaller scars.
The typical steps of a laparoscopic cholecystectomy are as follows:
1. Creation of several small incisions on the abdomen.
2. Inflation of the abdomen for easy access.
3. Insertion of the laparoscope (small camera) and tiny surgical instruments through the incision.
4. Separation of muscles around the surrounding liver to expose the gallbladder.
5. Dissection and extraction of the gallbladder.
6. Closure of incisions.
Recovery from keyhole surgery to remove the gallbladder usually does not take long. Most people can leave the hospital on the same day or the next morning and return to most normal activities within two weeks. Recovery from open surgery takes longer; patients may need to stay in the hospital for three to five days and it could be six to eight weeks before they feel back to normal.
After gallbladder removal, patients can lead a perfectly normal life without a gallbladder. The liver will still produce enough bile to digest food, but instead of being stored in the gallbladder, it will drip continuously into the digestive system. Some people may experience bloating or diarrhea after surgery, but this usually improves within a few weeks. If certain foods or drinks trigger these symptoms, patients may wish to avoid them in the future.
In summary, gallbladder removal surgery is a common and low-risk procedure used to treat problems associated with the gallbladder, such as painful gallstones. The surgery can be performed using keyhole or open techniques and recovery time varies depending on the method used. After surgery, patients can lead normal lives without a gallbladder.