Cholecystitis is inflammation of the gallbladder. Doctors usually treat cholecystitis by surgically removing this organ, known as a cholecystectomy.

Cholecystitis is inflammation of the gallbladder, an organ that stores and concentrates bile. This condition can cause pain, nausea, and vomiting. Cholecystitis can be acute or chronic.

A cholecystectomy is often the most effective treatment for cholecystitis.

This article explains why cholecystectomy can benefit people with cholecystitis, and its risks and benefits. It will also detail the procedure’s main steps before discussing how individuals can prepare for and recover from a cholecystectomy.

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A cholecystectomy is when doctors surgically remove the gallbladder. This is the most appropriate treatment for acute cholecystitis. The same is true of chronic cholecystitis.

Chronic cholecystitis arises when someone repeatedly experiences acute cholecystitis. This occurs when gallstones or over-concentrated bile block a bile duct. A blockage in a bile duct causes a buildup of bile, which leads to gallbladder inflammation.

A cholecystectomy is effective because it makes it impossible for this process to occur at all. While other treatments can reduce the risk of cholecystitis, they are generally not as effective.

Learn more about cholecystitis.

There are two main types of cholecystectomy: laparoscopic and open cholecystectomies.

Laparoscopic, or keyhole, cholecystectomy involves a surgeon making four, small incisions in a person’s abdomen. They insert a camera- and light-mounted tube into these incisions. This allows the surgeon to locate and operate on the gallbladder.

By contrast, an open cholecystectomy is an operation in which surgeons make a large incision in the abdomen. Special clamps hold this incision open while the surgeon removes the gallbladder.

After removing the gallbladder, the surgeon will use staples, stitching, or cauterization to close the incisions.

Anyone who is going to receive a cholecystectomy should discuss how to prepare with a doctor. Useful questions to ask include:

  • whether to fast before the surgery
  • whether to stop taking certain drugs or medications before the surgery
  • what to expect from the surgery and what its risks are

Both laparoscopic and open cholecystectomy take place under general anesthesia.

About 30 minutes before surgery, doctors typically give individuals preoperative antibiotics. These medications reduce the risk of developing an infection after surgery.

Doctors usually perform several tests before surgery, including:

These tests will let doctors know whether the person can undergo surgery and may inform how surgeons approach the cholecystectomy.

The recovery time for a cholecystectomy depends on the type of operation. Individuals can recover from laparoscopic cholecystectomy within around 1 week. For an open cholecystectomy, recovery can take several weeks.

Recovering from a cholecystectomy involves resting while the body heals. During this time, doctors will keep a close eye on the individual, so they can catch potential complications as soon as they arise.

According to a recent review, cholecystectomies may have the following effects on symptomatic gallstones:

  • reducing pain in between 66% and 100% of people
  • reducing indigestion in between 41% and 91% of people
  • reducing heartburn in between 43% and 72% of people
  • reducing acid reflux in between 24% and 92% of people
  • reducing nausea in between 54% and 98% of people
  • reducing vomiting in between 57% and 100% of people

People tend to report high satisfaction after having a cholecystectomy.

As with any form of surgery, a cholecystectomy comes with the risk of some complications. These include:

Such complications arise in around 16% of open cholecystectomies and 9% of laparoscopic cholecystectomies. This is because doctors must make a larger incision in an open cholecystectomy. This type of cholecystectomy is also more painful typically.

Post-cholecystectomy syndrome affects around 10 to 15% of people who receive cholecystectomies. This syndrome is when symptoms of cholecystitis, such as nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, persist, worsen, or develop after a cholecystectomy. Additional symptoms can include fatty food intolerance, heartburn, gastrointestinal issues, and jaundice. This can last for months or years after the surgery.

The following are some questions people frequently ask about cholecystitis.

What is the most common treatment for cholecystitis?

For both chronic and acute cholecystitis, gallbladder removal is a common treatment option. However, other nonsurgical treatment options are available. A person should discuss all their options with a healthcare professional.

How long does it take to recover from cholecystitis gallbladder removal?

Recovery times will vary from person to person. However, people generally need between one and several weeks to recover from a cholecystectomy.

Cholecystitis is inflammation of the gallbladder. It can be acute or chronic. For both types, doctors generally prefer to treat it by surgically removing the gallbladder, known as a cholecystectomy.

Surgeons can perform a cholecystectomy with open or laparoscopic surgery. The latter is less painful and typically less likely to have complications. Both procedures can significantly improve the symptoms of cholecystitis.