What is a cholecystectomy?

Cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of the gallbladder as a treatment for gallstones or other gallbladder problems. The gallbladder is responsible for collecting and storing bile, which is a digestive fluid produced by the liver. The gallbladder is located below the liver on the right side of the abdomen.

Why is a cholecystectomy performed?

A cholecystectomy would be carried out, most commonly to treat gallstones and the problems they can cause. Hence, the following problems can be treated by having a cholecystectomy:

  • Gallstones in the gallbladder or bile duct
  • Cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder)
  • Pancreatitis caused by gallstones
  • Gallbladder polyps

Preparation for cholecystectomy

Before surgery, you will be advised on when to stop eating, and also if any medications need to be temporarily halted.

What does cholecystectomy consist of?

A cholecystectomy requires general anaesthesia. A cholecystectomy can be performed either laparoscopically (keyhole) or as open surgery.

Minimally-invasive laparoscopic cholecystectomy involves having several small incisions made on the abdomen. Through these, a small tube with a video camera is inserted into the abdomen through one of these incisions. The video camera is connected to a monitor in the operating room, which guides the surgeon during the procedure. Using tools inserted through the incisions in the abdomen, the gallbladder is removed. Once removed, the incisions are closed with sutures and you are moved to a recovery room. This surgery takes between 1-2 hours.

Open cholecystectomy involves the surgeon making a bigger (around 6 inches) incision on the abdomen on the right side, below the ribs. The gallbladder is removed through this incision, which is then closed with sutures after. This also takes between 1-2 hours.

Care after cholecystectomy

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy:

Often patients can go home on the same day as their surgery, but sometimes a one night stay will be recommended. Full recovery is usually made within one week.

Open cholecystectomy:

Following open surgery for gallbladder removal, patients will usually spend two to three days in the hospital to recover and be monitored. Once home, a full recovery will be made in four to six weeks.

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