(Gallbladder Removal—Open Surgery)
by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.
Cholecystectomy is the removal of the gallbladder. Open is one method for this surgery. It uses a large cut into the belly.
Reasons for Procedure
A diseased or damaged gallbladder may need to be removed. There is another option that uses smaller cuts and may have a quicker recovery. The option called laparoscopic surgery is not always appropriate.
Open may be needed if there is:
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review problems that may happen such as:
Some factors that can increase your risk of problems include:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor will use info from earlier tests. Helpful information may include:
Leading up to your procedure:
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep for the procedure.
Description of Procedure
An incision will be made in the upper right area of the belly. The gallbladder will be separated from the items around it. This includes the liver, bile tubes, and blood vessels.
The bile tubes will be checked for stones. A dye may be used to highlight any stones. The tube may be opened to remove any stones. The rest of the belly will be carefully checked. This will be done to make sure you do not have any other problems. The cut will be closed with stitches or staples. The area will then be covered with a bandage.
A tiny, flexible tube may be placed in one of the cuts. It will exit from your belly into a little bulb. It will help to drain fluid from the area to help recovery. The tube is usually removed within 1 week.
Immediately After Procedure
You will be taken to a recovery room. There you will be cared for while you wake up from anesthesia.
How Long Will It Take?
About 30-60 minutes
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. The cut can be uncomfortable for a few days. Medicine can help to manage the discomfort.
Average Hospital Stay
At the Hospital
In the recovery room, the staff will monitor you for problems. In addition:
At first, your intestines will work more slowly than usual. Chewing gum may help.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection such as:
Recovery takes about 4-6 weeks. The gallbladder plays a role in breaking down fatty food. The liver will begin to take over the job but you may need to make some changes in the beginning. You will be given a food plan. It will include slowly getting back to your regular diet. Some can have discomfort after eating fatty foods. This is most true in the first month after surgery. Slowly add different foods to your diet. Focus on smaller meals. This may prevent major discomfort.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Gastroenterological Association
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
Cholecystectomy. American College of Surgeons website. Available at: https://www.facs.org/~/media/files/education/patient%20ed/cholesys.ashx. Accessed March 26, 2018.
Cholecystectomy. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900759/Cholecystectomy . Updated August 17, 2018. Accessed September 3, 2018.
Clayton ES, Connor S, Alexakis N, Leandros E. Meta-analysis of endoscopy and surgery versus surgery alone for common bile duct stones with the gallbladder in situ. Br J Surg. 2006;93(10):1185-1191.
Dasari BV, Tan CJ, Gurusamy KS, et al. Surgical versus endoscopic treatment of bile duct stones. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;12:CD003327.
Gallbladder surgery: Laparoscopic cholecystectomy. UC Davis Health website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed March 26, 2018.
3/23/2015 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed... : Short V, Herbert G, Perry R, et al. Chewing gum for postoperative recovery of gastrointestinal function. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;2:CD006506.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 9/3/2018
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