(Gallbladder Removal—Open Surgery)
by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.
Cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of the gallbladder. The gallbladder is near the liver. It stores bile that is made by the liver. Bile helps in the digestion of fatty foods. The gallbladder releases bile into a system of ducts that lead to the small intestine.
The open version of this surgery is done when a less invasive version called laparoscopic surgery cannot be done.
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
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a cholecystectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
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
An incision will be made in the upper right area of your abdomen. The gallbladder will be separated from the structures around it, including the liver, bile ducts, and arteries.
After the gallbladder is gone, dye may be squirted into the bile ducts. This will help show if there are gallstones in the ducts. The duct may be opened to remove any stones. While your abdomen is open, the other organs and structures will be examined. This will be done to make sure that you do not have any other problems. The incision will be closed with sutures or staples. It will then be covered with a bandage.
A tiny, flexible tube may be placed into the area where the gallbladder was removed. This tube will exit from your abdomen into a little bulb. This is to drain any fluids that may build during the first few days after surgery. The tube is usually removed within one week of your operation.
Immediately After Procedure
The gallbladder will be examined by a specialist. You will be taken to a room to recover. You will be monitored closely.
How Long Will It Take?
About 30-60 minutes
How Much Will It Hurt?
You will most likely feel some pain after the surgery. Your doctor will arrange for pain medications.
Average Hospital Stay
At the Hospital
Recovery takes about 4-6 weeks.
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Call Your Doctor TOP
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occur:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Gastroenterological Association
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
Cholecystectomy. American College of Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.facs.org/public_info/operation/cholesys.pdf . Accessed May 28, 2013.
Cholecystectomy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated May 17, 2013. Accessed May 28, 2013.
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;93:1185-91.
Gallbladder surgery: laparoscopic cholecystectomy. University of California at Davis website. Available at: http://www.ucdmc.u... . Accessed May 28, 2013.
Martin DJ, Wernon DR, Toouli J. Surgical versus endoscopic treatment of bile duct stones. Cochrane Database Syst Rev . Apr 2006;19(2):CD003327.
Last reviewed February 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 3/18/2013