What is a Cholecystectomy?

A Cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of the gallbladder (gallbladder removal surgery). The most common reason for cholecystectomy is gallstones that cause acute inflammation and pain for a patient.

Gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy) is a common surgery carrying a small risk of complications. Most patients will be able to recover quickly following surgery.

Reasons for a Cholecystectomy

A cholecystectomy, or gallbladder removal, is quite a common surgery, carrying a low risk of complications. It is most commonly performed to treat gallstones and complications that they may have caused. For example, your doctor may recommend a cholecystectomy if you have:

  • Gallstones in the gallbladder – this is known as cholelithiasis
  • Gallstones in the bile duct – this is known as choledocholithiasis
  • Suffering from inflammation of the gallbladder – this is known as cholecystitis
You can live a normal life without a gallbladder. Your liver will continue to create bile to digest your food, but instead of being stored in the gallbladder, it will drip continuously into your digestive system.

Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy - what to expect

A laparoscopic cholecystectomy is surgery to remove the gallbladder via the keyhole approach performed using general anesthesia and the surgery takes between 1 – 2 hours. Laparoscopic surgery is minimally invasive surgery, meaning that often patients can return home after one night’s stay in hospital following their gallbladder removal surgery.

Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy - the procedure

A laparoscopic cholecystectomy involves the surgeon making a number of small incisions in the abdomen. The abdomen is then inflated with carbon dioxide gas, which allows space to work and ease of movement as well as greater visibility for the surgeon.

Hollow tubes are inserted into the incision ports. A tube with a very small camera and light is inserted into the abdomen, which allows the surgeon to watch a video monitor in the operating theatre, while using surgical tools inserted into the other ports to remove the gallbladder. Once the gallbladder has been removed the incisions are stitched closed.

As a routine, to A/Prof Pilgrim generally takes an x-ray image test of the bile ducts at the time of cholecystectomy to make sure the bile ducts don’t unexpectedly have stones within them, and to make sure everything looks as it should prior to completing the operation and before the patient is taken to the recovery area.

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is minimally invasive, leaving very small incision scars and a much shorter recovery time. However this is not suited to every patient. In some cases, we may begin with a laparoscopic approach and find it necessary to proceed to an open cholecystectomy.

Open Cholecystectomy - the procedure

An open cholecystectomy involves the surgeon making an incision (approximately 15cm) to the upper right side of the abdomen below the ribs. Muscle and tissue are moved to reveal the liver and gallbladder. The gallbladder is then removed and the incision stitched closed. An open cholecystectomy does require a longer recovery time in hospital of 2 – 3 days post-surgery.

After gallbladder removal surgery

Following your laparoscopic cholecystectomy or cholecystectomy you should no longer experience any pain or discomfort of gallstones. In most cases a cholecystectomy will prevent gallstones from returning. As your gallbladder isn’t essential to your digestive system most patients won’t experience digestive problems following a cholecystectomy. How quickly you are able to return to normal activities following a cholecystectomy will depend on the procedure type (laparoscopic or open) and your overall health. Most people who have a laparoscopic cholecystectomy recover uneventfully and are most of the way back to their normal selves within the first two weeks post operatively, whereas an open cholecystectomy may require longer.

If you would like to know more about the cholecystectomy procedure, please make an appointment by calling us on (03) 9509 4811 or book an appointment online