What is a laparoscopic cholecystectomy?

A laparoscopic cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of your gallbladder through several small incisions and a laparoscope. A laparoscope is a long, thin camera that allows your doctor to see the surgical area on the video screen while removing your gallbladder. Your doctor may recommend a laparoscopic cholecystectomy if you develop gallstones (cholelithiasis) that 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) .

A laparoscopic cholecystectomy is a common but major surgery with serious 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 laparoscopy.

Other procedures that may be performed

Your doctor may perform other procedures in addition to a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Other procedures may include:

  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) locates and removes a gallstone that is stuck in the bile duct. It involves using an endoscope to access the bile duct. An endoscope is a long, lighted camera that transmits 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 common bile duct stone extraction is another procedure used to locate and remove a gallstone that is stuck in the bile duct. It involves inserting surgical instruments through small abdominal incisions and remove the stone through the bile duct with a small basket or crush the stone.
  • Open surgery involves making a larger incision that allows your doctor to directly see and remove the gallbladder. It is possible that your doctor may decide after beginning a laparoscopic cholecystectomy that you require open surgery to complete your surgery. 

Why is a laparoscopic cholecystectomy performed? 

Your doctor may recommend a laparoscopic cholecystectomy to treat diseases and conditions of the gallbladder and sometimes the pancreas. Your doctor may only consider surgery for you if other treatment options that involve less risk of complications have been ineffective. Ask your doctor about all of your treatment options and consider getting a second opinion before deciding on a laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

Your doctor may recommend a laparoscopic cholecystectomy to treat:

  • Cholecystitis, which is inflammation of the gallbladder resulting in severe pain called biliary colic. A gallstone that gets stuck in a bile duct that that carries bile to or from the gallbladder causes cholecystitis.
  • Choledocholithiasis, which is a gallstone that moves into the bile duct. In some cases, the gallstone will pass by itself. If it gets stuck in the bile duct it can cause inflammation of the gallbladder and possibly the pancreas. 
  • Cholelithiasis (gallstones) in the gallbladder, if they cause frequent or severe pain '
  • Gallbladder mass, which can be due to gallbladder cancer or from a benign (noncancerous) tumor
  • Gallstone pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas caused by a gallstone that gets stuck or passes through the bile duct. A gallstone in the bile duct can also block the pancreatic duct. The pancreatic duct carries digestive juices from the pancreas.
  • Perforated gallbladder, which is leaking or bursting of the gallbladder
  • Biliary dyskinesia, occurs when the gallbladder does not empty bile correctly. This can cause symptoms similar to cholecystitis.

Who performs a laparoscopic cholecystectomy?

A general surgeon performs laparoscopic cholecystectomy. A general surgeon specializes in the surgical treatment of a wide variety of diseases, disorders and conditions.&