What is Gallbladder Removal?

The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ on the right side of the upper abdomen, underneath the liver. Its purpose is to store bile, which is used to digest fat. Occasionally, the gallbladder can develop mineral stones, called gallstones. If they are large enough, gallstones can block the ducts in the gallbladder and cause swelling and infection. Gallstones can be treated with lifestyle changes and medication, but sometimes this is not enough. In these cases, it is best to remove the gallbladder before it can cause more serious problems. The surgical removal of the gallbladder is called a cholecystectomy.

Today, most gallbladder surgeries are done laparoscopically. Four tiny incisions are made in the abdomen, and small tools are inserted through these tiny incisions to perform the surgery. Because the incisions are much smaller, recovery time is much faster with this type of surgery. Patients are usually discharged from the hospital the same day. Sometimes, open surgery is used to remove a gallbladder. In this type of surgery, a cut about six inches long is made in the upper right abdomen. After the gallbladder is removed, it is sutured or stapled closed. With open surgery, patients usually stay in the hospital for two to three days to recover before they are discharged.

Gallbladder removal, like any surgery, carries some risks, such as bleeding, infection, or the development of blood clots. Your doctor will tell you how to minimize your risk for complications. After your surgery, avoid strenuous activity for several days. Don't soak in a bath until your sutures or staples have been removed. Wash your hands before touching the area around your incision. It will take a couple of days until you are feeling like yourself again and a few weeks until the scar has healed and faded.