Laparoscopic gallbladder removal is a minimally invasive surgery in which small incisions and specialized tools are used to remove a diseased or inflamed gallbladder.
The gallbladder is a small organ located just below your liver in your right upper abdomen. It stores bile, which is a liquid produced in the liver. The gallbladder releases bile into the small bowel to help break down and absorb dietary fats.
Normal digestion is possible without a gallbladder. Removal is a treatment option if it becomes significantly diseased or inflamed.
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 empty bile correctly due to a defect
- choledocholithiasis, which occurs when gallstones move to the common bile duct and potentially cause a blockage that prevents the gallbladder and rest of the biliary tree from draining
- cholecystitis, which is an inflammation of the gallbladder
- pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas that is related to gallstones
Laparoscopic surgery is preferred to open surgery because your surgeon makes smaller incisions. Smaller incisions reduce your risk of infection, bleeding, and recovery time.
Laparoscopic gallbladder removal is considered safe. The complication rate is between .5 and 6 percent
Every surgical procedure carries some major complication risks, but they’re typically rare for a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. 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 or adverse 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, liver, or small intestine
You’ll undergo different 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 exam
- a review of your medical history
Tell your doctor if you’re taking any medications, including over-the-counter (OTC) 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
- 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 the night before or day of the surgery
You first change into a hospital gown before the procedure. You then get an IV so your doctor can give you medications and fluids through your vein. You’re put under general anesthesia, which means you’ll be in a painless sleep before and during the surgery. A tube is placed in your throat that’s connected to a mechanical ventilator to help you breathe.
For the procedure, your surgeon makes four small incisions in your abdomen. They use these incisions to guide a tube with a small, lighted camera into your abdomen.
They then guide other tools through the incisions while looking at a monitor that shows what the camera captures.
Your abdomen is inflated with gas so your surgeon has space to work. They remove your gallbladder through the incisions.
After your surgeon removes your gallbladder, they use a special X-ray to check for problems in your bile duct. This technique is called intraoperative cholangiography. This shows any abnormalities in the remaining bile duct structures, like a bile stone, that your surgeon may need to remove.
When your surgeon is satisfied with the results, they stitch up and bandage the incisions. After the procedure, you’re brought to a room to recover from the anesthesia. Your vital signs are monitored closely the entire time.
Most people can go home later on the same day of the surgery.
The symptoms related to eating after the gallbladder removal surgery are mild and rare, but you may experience some diarrhea.
You’ll be encouraged to walk as soon as you’re awake and feeling better. Your doctor will instruct you about when you’ll be ready for most normal activities. Recovery back to usual activities typically takes around a week.
You need to care 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.