Laparoscopic gallbladder removal is a minimally invasive surgery in which small incisions and specialized tools are used to remove a diseased or infected gallbladder.
The gallbladder is a small organ located near your liver. It stores bile, which is a liquid produced in the liver. The gallbladder releases bile into the small bowel to help break down fats.
Normal digestion is possible without a gallbladder. Removal is a treatment option if it becomes diseased or infected.
Laparoscopic removal is the most common type of gallbladder removal surgery. It’s formally known as laparoscopic cholecystectomy.
The main reason for having a gallbladder removed is the presence of gallstones and the complications they cause.
The presence of gallstones is called cholelithiasis. Gallstones form inside the gallbladder from substances in the bile that become solid. They can be as small as a grain of sand and as large as a golf ball.
You might also need this type of surgery if you have the following:
- biliary dyskinesia, which occurs when the gallbladder doesn’t fill or empty correctly due to a defect
- choledocholithiasis, which occurs when gallstones move to the bile duct and potentially cause a blockage that prevents the gallbladder from draining
- cholecystitis, which is an inflammation of the gallbladder
- pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas
Laparoscopic surgery is preferred over open surgery because the smaller incisions that are made reduce your risk of infection, bleeding, and recovery time.
Laparoscopic gallbladder removal is considered safe. The complication rate is less than 2 percent.
Every surgical procedure carries some risks, but they’re rare. Your doctor will perform a complete physical examination and review your medical history before the procedure. This will help minimize these risks.
The risks of laparoscopic gallbladder removal include:
- allergic reaction to anesthesia or other drugs
- blood clots
- damage to blood vessels
- heart problems, such as a rapid heart rate
- injury to the bile duct or small intestine
You’ll undergo several tests beforehand to ensure that you’re healthy enough for the procedure. These will include:
- blood tests
- imaging tests of your gallbladder
- a complete physical
- a review of your medical history
Tell your doctor if you’re taking any medications, including over-the-counter medicines or nutritional supplements. You may have to stop taking certain medications before surgery. Also, tell your doctor if you’re pregnant or think you could be pregnant.
Your doctor will give you complete instructions about preparing for surgery. This could include:
- arranging for a ride home
- having someone to stay with you immediately after surgery
- drinking a prescription solution that flushes out your bowels
- not eating or drinking anything for four hours or more before surgery
- planning for a hospital stay in case of complications
- showering using a special antibacterial soap
Before beginning the procedure, you’ll change into a hospital gown. You’ll be given an IV so your doctor can give you medications and fluids through your vein. You’ll be under general anesthesia, which means you’ll be in a painless sleep before and during the surgery.
Your surgeon will make four small incisions in your abdomen. Through these incisions, they’ll guide a tube with a small, lighted camera through your abdomen. Watching the video through a monitor, your doctor will guide other tools through the holes in your abdomen.
Your abdomen will be inflated with gas so your surgeon has space to work. They’ll remove your gallbladder through these holes.
After your gallbladder has been removed, your surgeon will use a special X-ray to check for problems in your bile duct. This technique is called cholangiography. Any abnormalities in the bile duct may be removed.
When your surgeon is satisfied with the results, the openings will be stitched up and bandaged properly. After the procedure, you’ll be brought to a room to recover from the anesthesia. Your vital signs will be monitored the entire time.
Most people can go home the day of the surgery.
The symptoms after the gallbladder removal surgery are mild and rare, but you may experience some diarrhea.
Walking is usually encouraged as soon as you’re feeling better. Your doctor will instruct you about when you’ll be ready for most normal activities. Full recovery typically takes a week.
You’ll be in charge of caring for your incision wounds while you recover. This includes washing them properly. Most people can shower the day after surgery.
Your doctor will remove the stitches at a follow-up appointment.