(Gallbladder Removal; Lap Chole)
by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.
Cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of the gallbladder. This procedure is most often done laparoscopically. This is done through several small incisions in the abdomen. In some cases, the doctor may switch to open surgery. This involves a larger incision in the abdomen.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
This surgery is used to remove a diseased or damaged gallbladder. The damage is typically caused by infection or inflammation. This is often due to gallstones, which are crystals of bile that can form in the gallbladder. Sometimes, these get stuck in the ducts that bile normally flows through. This blockage in the ducts can damage the gallbladder and the liver.
Possible Complications TOP
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor will probably do some or all of the following:
Leading up to your procedure:
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep for the procedure.
Description of Procedure TOP
Four small openings will be made in your abdomen. Carbon dioxide will be pumped into the abdomen to provide a better view.
The laparoscope will be inserted through one of the openings. It will provide images of the gallbladder and surrounding area. Instruments will be inserted through the other openings. They will be used to grasp the gallbladder and clip off the main artery and duct. The gallbladder will be removed through one of the openings. Contrast material may be injected into the duct to look for stones, which may be removed if found. The entire abdomen will be carefully examined. The incisions will be closed with sutures or staples. They will be covered with bandages.
A tiny, flexible tube may be placed into the area. This tube will exit from your abdomen into a little bulb. This is to drain fluid. The tube is usually removed within 1 week.
Immediately After Procedure TOP
You will be taken to a recovery room.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
About 30-60 minutes
How Much Will It Hurt? TOP
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Average Hospital Stay TOP
If you do not have any problems, you may be able to go home the same day as the surgery or the next day.
Post-procedure Care TOP
At the Hospital
After the procedure, the hospital staff will:
Your bowels will work more slowly than usual. Chewing gum may help speed the process of your bowel function returning to normal.
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 3 weeks. You will have a special diet and physical activity plan to help with your recovery. Follow instructions on wound care to prevent infection. Your doctor may advise pain medications for discomfort. Your liver will take over the functions of the gallbladder. Some people notice that they have a little more trouble digesting fatty foods, particularly for the first month after surgery.
Call Your Doctor TOP
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 June 16, 2017. Accessed March 26, 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.
Laparoscopic gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy) from SAGES. Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons website. Available at: https://www.sages.org/publications/patient-information/patient-information-for-laparoscopic-gallbladder-removal-cholecystectomy-from-sages. Updated March 1, 2015. 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: 3/23/2015
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