Gallstone and Gallbladder Removal
If you've ever had a problem with your gallbladder, you're not alone. Harvard Health reports that as many as
a million Americans have their gallbladder removed due to cholecystitis or the presence of gallstones each year. Pain from the gallbladder occurs in the upper portion of the abdomen, is one of the worst types of stomach aches you could ever experience, and can require urgent removal. Surprisingly, in some instances, gallstones do not cause symptoms that require treatment at all. When there is an issue with the gallbladder, a procedure to remove the gallbladder, known as a cholecystectomy, can be performed.
This article will give an overview of what you need to know about gallstones, gallbladder removal, the difference between laparoscopic or open cholecystectomy, and recovery.
What is a Gallbladder?
Your gallbladder is the small, pear-shaped organ situated beneath your liver—this hollow organ stores bile, which is the fluid that helps you digest your food.
What Is a Gallstone?
If your gallbladder fails to function correctly, the bile can become unbalanced, which leads to hard fragments forming. These fragments can range in size from a tiny grain of rice to as large as a golf ball, causing excruciating pain. Gallstones consist of bits of digestive fluid that solidify in your gallbladder. They may be caused by high cholesterol, high bilirubin, or a gallbladder that does not empty properly. Depending on the amount of digestive fluid involved, you may experience one or several gallstones at a time. Although gallstones do not always cause symptoms, they are often characterized by a sudden, sharp pain in your abdomen, back, or right shoulder that may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or a high fever.
What is the Treatment Option for Gallstones?
Minor gallstones that do not cause pain or other symptoms usually will not need treatment and may never be noticed at all. However, you have two main options for treating painful gallstones that disrupt your life:
Certain medications can be used to dissolve gallstones, but they can take a long time to work and may not always work at all, especially for severe gallstones. In most cases, gallbladder removal surgery is your best option for removing painful gallstones.
Open or Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy
Gallstone/Gallbladder removal surgery, also known as a cholecystectomy, is a relatively simple procedure. It can be performed traditionally with a large incision (known as open cholecystectomy) or with four small incisions and a camera (known as laparoscopic cholecystectomy). The latter of the two procedures is much more common since it is least disruptive to the body and therefore allows for quicker healing. With either approach, the gallbladder and any included gallstones are removed from the body.
What Diagnoses Besides Gallstones Can Be Treated by Gallbladder Removal Surgery?
There are a few other reasons your general surgeon may recommend having your gallbladder removed. For instance, cholecystectomy can be used to treat the following conditions:
Gallbladder Cancer - people who have a history of gallstones, are at increased risk of gallbladder cancer.
Inflammation of the Gallbladder - this can be caused by eating certain foods, tumors, excessive alcohol use, or infection.
Inflammation of the Pancreas - known as pancreatitis - this condition can be caused by excess alcohol, gallstones, drugs, infection, and high levels of fat in the blood.
What Happens During Gallstone and Gallbladder Removal Surgery?
Laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery tends to be somewhat more straightforward than many other surgeries since small incisions are used. Most surgeons prefer a laparoscopic approach for a cholecystectomy. Since smaller incisions are used, it reduces the risk for bleeding, infection, and the time needed for recovery.
During a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, the surgeon makes extremely thin incisions in your abdomen. Then, they place a trocar through your abdomen for accessing your gallbladder. Long tools and telescopic cameras are used for reaching and removing your gallbladder.
What is the Recovery like for Gallbladder Removal?
Inpatient or Outpatient
After the surgeon has stitched up the incisions from your laparoscopic cholecystectomy, you'll be taken to a recovery room while your anesthesia wears off. You will often be allowed to go home the same day and can expect to fully recover within about a week.
If you were treated with open cholecystectomy, you could expect to stay two to three days in the hospital and have a four to six-week recovery period since you'll have a larger incision. Although there are few risks involved with this procedure, you will need to watch for signs of infection, severe bleeding, and bile leakage during your recovery.
Wound Care and Showers
You'll need to keep the wounds on your abdomen clean. Showers are permitted once the bandages can be removed.
Consume a balanced, healthy diet, including fiber-rich foods for keeping your bowels moving regularly. To avoid constipation, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Exercising and Driving
You should be able to easily move around the day following your procedure, feeling minimal pain, although you'll probably feel some soreness.
Walk as much as possible, but don't lift anything that could injure your wound. Check with your doctor for specific instructions. Most people can drive and resume their normal activities within a week of their laparoscopic surgery.
- Fortunately, most people who've had a cholecystectomy can live healthy lives without their gallbladders.
- After the gallbladder has been removed, bile directly flows from the liver into the small intestine instead of being stored in the gallbladder.
- Thus, you can have normal digestion following a cholecystectomy.
Why Choose Dr. Daniel Gay for This Procedure?
Dr. Gay believes in treating people how they would like to be treated, applying the Golden Rule. He creates a partnership with each patient, stressing the importance of health education, along with an individualized approach. Don't continue to suffer from gallbladder problems.
Dr. Daniel Gay specializes in laparoscopic surgery, which makes the recovery process much easier for his patients. His extensive expertise in laparoscopic and open cholecystectomy has made him one of the top Boise surgeons for this procedure.
Contact Dr. Daniel Gay today with any concerns you have about gallstone removal or to schedule an appointment!