Gallbladder Surgery (Cholecystectomy)


Anatomy and gallbladder surgery

The gallbladder is a small organ in the abdomen that produces, stores, and releases bile, a fluid produced by the liver that helps digest fats in the small intestine. If the bile in your gallbladder becomes chemically imbalanced, it can form into hardened particles that grow over time and eventually turn into gallstones.


When your gallbladder is not functioning properly (biliary dyskinesia) these symptoms may occur:

  • Indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain after eating in the middle or right upper belly
  • Infection

Gallstones can be quite painful and, if left untreated, may lead to serious complications. If the stones move to nearby bile ducts, they can cause blockages that lead to jaundice or inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). Patients with gallstones are at a higher risk of developing gallbladder cancer although this complication is very rare.

Once gallstones have been identified, either through a CT or CAT scan, hepatobiliary (HIDA) scan, or other test, surgical removal of the gallbladder is usually the best option.

Gallbladder surgery procedure

Cholecystectomy can be performed as an open or laparoscopic surgery. It is performed using general anesthesia, so you are asleep and unable to feel pain.


Your physician will make several small incisions in your abdomen. Then he or she will insert a laparoscope or a lighted tube with a camera to view your internal organs on a TV monitor. The surgeon will insert additional medical instruments to remove the gallbladder. To make it easier to move instruments within your belly, it is inflated with gas. Laparoscopic surgery offers a less invasive approach to gallbladder removal and allows for quicker healing time.

First the bile duct and blood vessels attached to it are cut. Then the gallbladder can be removed with the laparoscope.

Your surgeon may elect to perform a cholangiogram. After inserting dye into your common bile duct, an x-ray called a cholangiogram is used to see if other gallbladder stones are present and if they should be removed.

Preparing for gallbladder surgery

Before surgery the surgeon may require the following tests:

  • X-ray of your gallbladder
  • Chest x-ray or EKG (electrocardiogram)
  • Blood tests

After gallbladder surgery

  • Patients who undergo gallbladder surgery can often leave the hospital the same day as the surgery. Immediately after surgery, you will be taken to a recovery area where you can rest and begin taking pain medication. Once you are feeling better (often within a few hours), you may return home.
  • At home, you may experience abdominal cramping, fatigue, and bruising around your incisions. Make sure to follow your doctor’s advice about when to remove your dressing, when you can bathe (usually the next day), and what kind of foods to eat (usually light meals).
  • Be sure to walk and move around as much as possible.
  • Your doctor will advise you when to return to work
  • Once you’re feeling like yourself again, it is important to stay active and eat nutritious, high-fiber foods. Talk to your doctor about improving your overall health through changes in diet and exercise.