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Managing Pain After Gallbladder Removal

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What is a cholecystectomy?

Cholecystectomy

Cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of the gallbladder. Your doctor may recommend a cholecystectomy if you develop gallstones (cholelithiasis) that can cause pain. 

The gallbladder is located in the upper right side of your abdomen under the liver. The pear-shaped gallbladder is a hollow sac that concentrates and stores bile produced by the liver. Bile moves from the gallbladder through the bile duct into the small intestine during digestion. A gallstone can move from the gallbladder and block a bile duct, causing irritation, pain and swelling of the gallbladder (cholecystitis).

Cholecystectomy is a common but major surgery with significant risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options. Consider getting a second opinion about all of your treatment choices before having a cholecystectomy.

Types of cholecystectomy

The types of cholecystectomy include:

  • Laparoscopic cholecystectomy involves removing your gallbladder through several small incisions. The surgeon will use a laparoscope, a thin, lighted instrument with a small camera that transmits pictures of the inside of your body to a video screen. The surgeon sees the surgical area on the video screen while removing the gallbladder using surgical instruments adapted for laparoscopic surgery. This is the most common method of removing the gallbladder.
  • Open cholecystectomy involves making a larger incision in the upper abdomen that allows the surgeon to see and remove the gallbladder directly. 

Other procedures that may be performed

Your doctor may perform other procedures in addition to cholecystectomy. These include:

  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is used to locate and remove a gallstone that is stuck in the major bile duct. In ERCP, your doctor will use an endoscope. An endoscope is a long, lighted instrument that contains a camera to transmit pictures of the inside of your body to a video screen during surgery. Your doctor will pass the endoscope down your throat and through the stomach into the small intestine. Your doctor will remove the stone through the endoscope. 
  • Laparoscopic transcystic common bile duct stone extraction is used to locate and remove a gallstone that is stuck in the bile duct. Your doctor will insert surgical instruments through small abdominal incisions and remove the stone through the bile duct with a small basket.
Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 11, 2013

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Medical References

  1. Biliary Tract Disorders, Gallbladder Disorders and Gallstone Pancreatitis. The American College of Gastroenterology. http://www.acg.gi.org/patients/gihealth/biliary.asp.
  2. Cholecystectomy. American College of Surgeons. http://www.facs.org/public_info/operation/cholesys.pdf.
  3. Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy. Center for Pancreatic and Biliary Diseases, University of Southern California. http://www.surgery.usc.edu/divisions/tumor/pancreasdiseases/web%20pages/Biliary%20SYSTEM/laparoscopi...
  4. Patient Information for Laparoscopic Gall Bladder Removal (Cholecystectomy) from SAGES. Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons. http://www.sages.org/publication/id/PI11/
  5. Pile, JC. Evaluating postoperative fever: A focused approach. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2006;73 (Suppl 1):S62. http://ccjm.org/content/73/Suppl_1/S62.full.pdf.

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