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Cholecystectomy—Open Surgery

(Gallbladder Removal—Open Surgery)

Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.

Definition

Cholecystectomy is the removal of the gallbladder. The gallbladder is an organ. It stores a digestive fluid called bile.

Reasons for Procedure

This surgery is done to treat conditions in the gallbladder, such as:

  • Gallstones
  • Inflammation
  • Cancer
  • Polyps

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Excess bleeding
  • Problems from anesthesia
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Injury to nearby structures or organs

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Chronic diseases such as diabetes or obesity
  • Pregnancy

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Anesthesia options
  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
  • Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Whether you need a ride to and from surgery
  • Cleaning the colon

Anesthesia

The doctor will give general anesthesia. You will be asleep.

Description of Procedure

The surgery may be done one of two ways:

Open Surgery

An incision will be made in the upper right side of the abdomen. The gallbladder is removed. Any ducts are clamped off. The incision will be closed with stitches or staples. A bandage will be placed over the site. A tube may be placed to drain fluids from the area. It will be removed before leaving the hospital.

Laparoscopic Surgery

Small incisions will be made in the abdomen. A tube will be passed through one of the incisions. It will push gas into the belly. This will make it easier for the doctor to view the area. A camera will allow the doctor to see inside the belly. Other tools will be passed through the incisions. They will be used to remove the gallbladder. Any ducts will also be clamped off. The incision will be closed with stitches. A bandage will be placed over the site. A tube may be placed to drain fluids from the area. It will be removed before leaving the hospital.

How Long Will It Take?

30 to 60 minutes

Will It Hurt?

Pain and swelling are common in the first 1 to 2 weeks. Medicine and home care help.

Average Hospital Stay

The usual length of stay is 2 to 6 days. If there are any problems, you may need to stay longer.

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital

Right after the procedure, the staff may give you pain medicine.

During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to lower your risk of infection such as:

  • Washing their hands
  • Wearing gloves or masks
  • Keeping your incisions covered

There are also steps you can take to lower your risk of infection such as:

  • Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and staff to do the same
  • Reminding staff to wear gloves or masks
  • Not letting others touch your incisions

At Home

It will take about 4 to 6 weeks to recover. Physical activity will be limited during this time. A special diet may be needed for a few weeks or longer. You will need to delay your return to work for one week.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, excess bleeding, or discharge from the incision
  • Lasting nausea or vomiting
  • Pain that you cannot control with medicine
  • Problems passing stool, including bleeding
  • Bloating and gas that last for more than a month
  • Dark urine, light stools, or yellowing of the skin or eyes

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES:

American Gastroenterological Association
http://www.gastro.org

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
https://www.niddk.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
https://www.cag-acg.org

Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
http://www.cdhf.ca

REFERENCES:

Cholecystectomy. American College of Surgeons website. Available at: https://www.facs.org/~/media/files/education/patient%20ed/cholesys.ashx. Accessed January 14, 2021.

Cholecystectomy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/procedure/cholecystectomy . Accessed January 14, 2021.

Moody N, Adiamah A, et. al. Meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials of early versus delayed cholecystectomy for mild gallstone pancreatitis. Br J Surg. 2019 Oct;106(11):1442-1451.

Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD  Last Updated: 1/14/2021