Gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy)

What is a gallbladder?

The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped pouch in the upper right part of your abdomen which stores the bile produced by the liver. Bile is a digestive fluid that helps to break down fatty food, and it is carried from the gallbladder to the intestine through a tube called the bile duct.

If the bile in the gallbladder becomes too concentrated then small hard gallstones can develop which can block the bile duct. This can cause abdominal pain, nausea and fever and, if these symptoms persist, removal of the gallbladder is often required.

The body can function well without a gallbladder.

There are two ways to remove the gallbladder through a 'keyhole' operation which is usually carried out as a day case. Occasionally open gall bladder removal surgery which will require a two to three night stay. Your surgeon will discuss the most suitable method with you.

What will this involve?

Keyhole gallstone removal is performed under general anaesthetic and takes 60 to 90 minutes. Your surgeon will make two or three small cuts on your skin, above, or just below, your navel. Using a hollow needle, carbon dioxide gas is the pumped into the abdomen to create more room for your surgeon to work in and makes it easier to see the internal organs.

The laparoscope (a long, thin telescope with a light and camera lens at the tip) is then passed through one of the cuts. Your surgeon will examine the internal organs by looking at pictures it sends to a video screen.

Specially designed instruments are passed through the other cuts to help move the internal structures so that your surgeon can see around them and to cut and remove the gall bladder.

Afterwards, the instruments are removed and the gas is allowed to escape through the laparoscope. The skin cuts are then closed with dissolvable stitches and covered with a dressing.

When will I recover?

After the operation you are likely to feel some pain in the abdomen which usually disappears within a day or two. With keyhole surgery you will either go home the same day or the next, and your surgeon and nurses will advise you about how to speed your recovery once you are discharged.


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