The most common type of gallbladder removal surgery is laparoscopic cholecystectomy. This minimally invasive surgery is an option for people who have issues with their gallbladder.

This surgery may address issues such as gallstones that cause pain and inflammation.

Gallbladder removal surgery is a routine procedure. While it is generally safe, risks and complications are possible.

Read on to learn what laparoscopic cholecystectomy involves, how to prepare for it, and what to expect afterward.

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The gallbladder is a digestive organ that sits under the liver on the right side of the abdomen. Its main function is to store and concentrate bile, a digestive fluid produced by the liver. Bile helps break down fats.

The gallbladder is not an essential organ, which means that people can live without it if necessary.

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is a routine surgery to remove the gallbladder. It is an effective treatment option for people who have gallbladder problems that worsen, cause discomfort, or affect their daily life. This includes gallstones, which are hard stones that develop due to chemical imbalances in the bile.

Usually, gallstones do not cause noticeable symptoms and do not require treatment. However, they may block bile ducts, which can cause sudden, severe abdominal pain (biliary colic).

Gallstones can also cause inflammation of the pancreas (acute pancreatitis) or gallbladder (acute cholecystitis), which can cause symptoms such as:

  • constant pain
  • feeling unwell
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

The most common type of gallbladder surgery is laparoscopic cholecystectomy, which is a minimally invasive surgery that uses general anesthesia.

The operation involves the surgeon making small incisions on the abdomen and inserting a laparoscope, which is a long, narrow surgical telescope that has a light and video camera on the end. While viewing the gallbladder on a monitor, surgeons insert surgical tools to remove it.

This technique is less invasive than an open cholecystectomy, which involves making a large incision in the abdomen. Compared with open cholecystectomy, laparoscopic cholecystectomy:

  • reduces pain
  • speeds up the healing process
  • lowers the chance of infection
  • minimizes scarring

If complications such as inflammation arise during a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, it may be necessary to switch to open cholecystectomy.

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is generally safe for most people, though it does have a risk of complications. Usually, a person can go home on the same day as the procedure. They will need someone to drive them home or ride in a taxi with them. A person should arrange for someone to stay with them for a minimum of 24 hours, since they may continue to experience the effects of anesthesia during this time.

During recovery, a person needs to follow the aftercare instructions that their doctor provides, which may include not taking a bath or shower for a few days. They must keep the wound clean and look out for any signs of infection, including:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • pus draining from the wound

A person must take it easy and avoid intense physical activity, as directed by their doctor.

Complications following laparoscopic cholecystectomy are rare but possible. Gallbladder surgery can cause bile duct injury, which may lead to infection and require at least one bile duct repair surgery. Rare reactions to general anesthesia include allergic reactions and death.

Additional complications of laparoscopic cholecystectomy include:

  • bleeding
  • recurrent abdominal pain
  • blood clots (deep vein thrombosis)
  • bile leakage
  • intestine, bowel, and blood vessel injury

Post-cholecystectomy syndrome can cause symptoms similar to gallstones, including:

  • abdominal pain
  • indigestion
  • diarrhea
  • yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
  • fever

After gallbladder removal, bile flows directly from the liver into the duodenum (part of the small intestine) more often, which may cause diarrhea and loose, watery stools. People may also have more frequent bowel movements. Usually, these changes only last a few weeks.

People should avoid any foods or drink that cause these symptoms to flare.

Additional temporary side effects of laparoscopic cholecystectomy include:

  • swelling, bruising, and pain at the incision site
  • shoulder and stomach pain
  • feeling sick
  • bloating, flatulence, and indigestion

To get ready for gallbladder surgery, a person will have an appointment that includes a general health check and blood tests. The person’s doctor will determine if laparoscopic cholecystectomy is the best option. The doctor will also answer questions and talk with the person about their concerns.

A person will also have to avoid eating or drinking for 8 hours before surgery. After surgery, they can eat and drink as long as they don’t feel sick.

Usually, laparoscopic cholecystectomy is safe for most people. However, there is the potential for risks and side effects.

People must follow the post-surgery instructions from their doctor. They should seek medical attention if they experience any adverse effects that are severe or long lasting.

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is a common surgery that treats gallbladder problems, including pain, inflammation, and gallstones. This minimally invasive procedure reduces recovery time and lowers the chance of infection compared with more invasive surgeries.

Following surgery, people also need to be aware of signs of infection, rest for a few weeks, and maintain a balanced diet. This will help ensure a speedy and healthy recovery.