What are the risks and potential complications of a cholecystectomy?
Any surgery involves risks and potential complications. Complications may become serious and life threatening in some cases. Complications can develop during the procedure or throughout your recovery.
General risks of surgery
The general risks of surgical procedures include:
- Adverse reaction or problems related to anesthesia, such as an allergic reaction and problems with breathing
- Bleeding, which can lead to shock
- Blood clots, in particular a deep vein thrombosis that develops in the leg or pelvis. A blood clot can travel to your lungs, heart or brain and cause a pulmonary embolism, heart attack, or stroke.
- Infection and septicemia, which is the spread of a local infection to the blood
- Pneumonia, which is a lung infection
Potential complications of cholecystectomy
The majority of cholecystectomy procedures are successful. However, complications of cholecystectomy can occur and become serious. You can reduce the risk of potential complications and help manage complications if any occur by following the treatment plan you and your surgeon design specifically for you. Potential complications include:
- Abdominal adhesions, which is a formation of scar tissue in the abdomen
- Abdominal bleeding
- Damage to nearby organs, such as the common bile duct or small intestine
- Leakage of bile into the abdomen
- Opening of the external abdominal incision
Reducing your risk of complications
You can reduce the risk of certain complications by:
- Ensuring that all members of you care team are aware of any allergies you have
- Following activity, dietary and lifestyle restrictions and recommendations before surgery and during recovery
- Informing your doctor if you are nursing or there is any possibility that you may be pregnant
- Notifying your doctor immediately of any concerns, such as bleeding, fever, increase in pain, or wound redness, swelling or drainage
- Taking your medications exactly as directed
How do I prepare for my cholecystectomy?
You are a very important member of your own healthcare team. The steps you take before surgery can significantly improve your outcome after the procedure. You can prepare yourself for cholecystectomy by:
- Answering all questions about your medical history and medications you take. This includes prescribed medications, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications, and allergies at all times.
- Getting pre-operative testing as directed. Testing will vary depending on your age, health, and specific procedure. Pre-operative testing may include a chest X-ray, electrocardiography (ECG), blood tests, and other tests as needed.
- If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about losing weight before surgery through a healthy diet and exercise plan.
- Not eating or drinking just prior to surgery as directed. Your doctor may cancel your surgery if you eat or drink too close to the start of the procedure due to a risk of complications. These include choking on stomach contents during general anesthesia.
- Stop smoking as soon as possible. Even quitting for a just few days can be helpful.
- Taking or stopping medications exactly as directed. For cholecystectomy, this may include not taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and blood thinners.
Questions to ask your doctor
Facing surgery can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their questions during a brief doctor’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment. You should contact your doctor with any concerns before surgery and between appointments. It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your pre-operative appointments. Questions can include:
- Why do I need cholecystectomy? Are there any other options for treating my condition?
- What type of cholecystectomy procedure will I need?
- How long will the surgery take? When can I go home?
- What restrictions will I have after the surgery, and when can I expect to return to work and other activities?
- What kind of diet can I eat after surgery?
- What kind of assistance will I need at home?
- Will I need physical therapy or rehabilitation?
- What medications will I need before and after the surgery? How will I need to take my usual medications?
- How will you manage my pain?
- If you find a problem or another condition during surgery, will you treat it right away or will I need more surgery or another treatment later?
- How should I contact you? When should I see you in follow-up? Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours.
In this article
- What is a cholecystectomy?
- Why is a cholecystectomy performed?
- How is a cholecystectomy performed?
- What are the risks and potential complications of a cholecystectomy?
- How do I prepare for my cholecystectomy?
- What can I expect after my cholecystectomy?
- How might cholecystectomy affect my everyday life?
© Copyright 2012 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.