9 Things You Should Know About Cholecystectomy

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
  • Illustration of gallbladder as jigsaw puzzle with unseen surgeon removing pieces with medical tools
    1. Cholecystectomy is the medical name for gallbladder removal.
    Your gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ in your digestive system, but what does it do? Your gallbladder is basically an accessory organ. It acts as a “warehouse,” storing the bile produced by your liver, and then releasing it into the small intestine to support digestion. If you have signs of gallbladder problems, such as gallstones, cancer, or another problem, you may need to have your gallbladder removed. Cholecystectomy is the medical name for this surgery. It is performed under general anesthesia, so you will be asleep during the procedure.
  • Row of gallstones on white background
    2. Gallstones are the most common reason for gallbladder removal.
    Gallstones are small, hard masses usually formed from bile salts and cholesterol. If one or more gallstones lodges in a passageway leading out of your gallbladder, called a bile duct, you can develop severe pain and other symptoms. A blocked duct can also inflame your pancreas. Gallbladder cancer and a leaking or burst gallbladder are other reasons you may need a cholecystectomy.
  • Male African American surgeon in operating room
    3. General surgeons perform the vast majority of gallbladder surgeries.
    A cholecystectomy is a general surgery that will be done by a surgical team in a hospital or surgery center. The lead surgeon on this team may be a general surgeon, an endoscopic surgeon, or a gastrointestinal surgeon. All are qualified to perform this procedure. Let Healthgrades help you find a surgeon in your area.
  • getty image surgery 980w
    4. Open gallbladder removal involves a single, large incision.
    The traditional way surgeons remove the gallbladder is called an open cholecystectomy. Your surgeon will make a large incision across your abdomen. To get direct access to the gallbladder, your surgeon will move layers of muscles and tissue out of the way. You will likely have a longer hospital stay, a longer recovery time after surgery, and a larger scar compared to a laparoscopic procedure. These days, only a few people need an open cholecystectomy.
  • Unseen Caucasian man with bandages on abdomen from laparoscopic surgery
    5. Laparoscopic gallbladder removal involves a few small incisions.
    With laparoscopic surgery, your surgeon makes a few small incisions in your abdomen. Your surgeon inserts specialized surgical instruments through each opening. One such instrument is the laparoscope (a camera and a light). This device allows your surgeon to see your gallbladder on a video screen. Your surgeon guides the instruments to remove your gallbladder and closes each incision with a stitch or two. Your recovery should be shorter and easier compared with an open procedure.
  • Patient and surgeons
    6. The surgical risks include infection, bleeding and blood clots.
    As with all surgeries, there are some risks involved with a cholecystectomy, such as infection, bleeding, a blood clot, and problems related to anesthesia. Other problems specific to a cholecystectomy include abdominal bleeding or scarring, damage to organs around the gallbladder, and bile leaking into your abdomen. Risks can vary between individuals, so talk to your doctor about your specific risk of problems.
  • Doctor with syringe is taking blood for test
    7. You’ll have a preoperative evaluation and blood tests before surgery.
    You will likely have diagnostic tests before your doctor decides you need a cholecystectomy. In non-emergency situations, you may need to change your diet in the weeks before your surgery and have routine preoperative tests, such as blood tests and a chest X-ray. Your doctor will give you guidelines about taking medications and when to stop eating and drinking the night before your surgery.
  • smiling Hispanic woman watching television on couch
    8. You’ll need to rest 1 to 2 weeks before resuming your normal schedule.
    Gallbladder removal recovery time depends on the type of surgery and your overall health. After a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, you may be able to leave the hospital the same day or the next day. You’ll probably stay in the hospital a few days longer after an open surgery. Once home, you should take it easy for a week or two, after which you should be able to get back to normal activities. However, if your job requires lifting and other strenuous activity, you may need to wait 4 to 6 weeks before returning to work.
  • Group of older female Caucasian friends taking a selfie at restaurant together
    9. You should be able to eat a normal diet without your gallbladder.
    Although the gallbladder plays a supportive role in the digestive process, you can easily live without it and should be able to eat a normal diet after gallbladder removal. Be sure to keep all follow-up appointments with your surgeon and let your doctor know if you notice any problems with your incisions as they heal, such as redness, swelling, or pain, or if you develop a fever.
9 Things to Know About Gallbladder Removal | Cholecystectomy Facts
  1. Biliary Tract Disorders. Gallbladder Disorders and Gallstone Pancreatitis. The American College of Gastroenterology. http://www.acg.gi.org/patients/gihealth/biliary.asp.Patient 
  2. Information for Laparoscopic Gallbladder Removal (Cholecystectomy) from SAGES. Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons. 2012. http://www.sages.org/publication/id/PI11/.Cholecystectomy
  3. Cholecystectomy. American College of Surgeons. http://www.facs.org/public_info/operation/cholesys.pdf
  4. 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....
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 4
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