Cholecystectomy (Gallbladder Removal)
Gallbladder removal surgery is a common, often minimally invasive, treatment for gallstones. The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ that sits below your liver to collect and store bile made by the liver. You can live a normal life without a gallbladder.
Also Known As
Inpatient or Outpatient
Typical Recovery Time
1 – 8 Weeks
About the Surgery
What kind of outcome is typical for gallbladder surgery?
Removing the gallbladder will usually eliminate the pain caused by gallstones and keep them from coming back. Most people can live and digest food normally with their gallbladder removed.
What are the risks of not having gallbladder surgery?
Risks of not having gallbladder removal surgery include sudden or recurring attacks of gallstone pain; inflammation in the gallbladder, bile ducts, or pancreas; and jaundice. An unhealthy gallbladder left untreated may also be prone to develop gallbladder cancer.
What are the alternatives to gallbladder surgery?
Some early cases of gallstones may be treated with medication. Other potential treatments include extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy, which uses shockwaves to break apart gallstones; injections to dissolve gallstones; and drainage procedures to remove fluid for patients who can’t undergo surgery.
What are the possible side effects of general anesthesia?
Some of the possible side effects of general anesthesia include nausea and vomiting, dry mouth, sore throat, muscle aches, headache, bruising (from the IV), itching, shivering and feeling cold, difficulty urinating, and sleepiness. In older patients, memory loss and temporary confusion are possible.
What are possible side effects and complications of gallbladder surgery?
Possible complications of gallbladder surgery include excessive bleeding, blood clots, bile leakage, infection, and injury to nearby organs. Side effects may include swollen or painful wounds, diarrhea or constipation, flatulence, and difficulty digesting fats.
How safe is gallbladder surgery?
In general, severe complications from gallbladder removal surgery are rare. You should also know that Hancock Regional Hospital has been rated one of the safest hospitals in America by The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit health care watchdog organization; and was named the safest hospital in Indiana on the Lown Institute Hospital Index.
How do I know gallbladder surgery is right for me?
If you have repeated attacks of gallstones, surgery may be right for you. The presence of gallstones and the symptoms and complications they can cause, including pain, nausea, vomiting, and bloating, are the most common reasons to have gallbladder surgery. Gallstones can also cause jaundice, a yellowing of the skin caused by a bile duct blockage.
Do I have options for anesthesia for gallbladder surgery?
Gallbladder removal surgery is typically performed with general anesthesia.
What is minimally invasive surgery?
Minimally invasive surgeries involve smaller incisions and a less-invasive technique, shortening recovery time.
What issue does gallbladder surgery solve?
Gallbladder removal surgery may be recommended for several medical issues—most commonly to relieve the pain caused by gallstones: hard deposits in the bile that can range from tiny to golf ball size. Gallstones can lead to inflammation and infection in the gallbladder.
How is gallbladder surgery done?
Laparoscopic gallbladder surgery is often a minimally invasive procedure performed with a small video camera and special tools inserted through small incisions. In some cases, open surgery with a larger incision may be required.
Choosing a Surgeon
Why might I have to wait to schedule gallbladder surgery?
In some cases it takes time for a patient’s body to be ready for surgery—for example, if you have another medical issue including another surgical procedure or an illness—we might wait to schedule surgery. Your health and safety are our top priorities, so we schedule surgeries when they’re best for our patients.
Will the surgical team know my health history?
Your health history will be compiled and available to the team before, during, and after surgery. If you’re a Hancock Health patient, we will be able to access your records within our system. If you aren’t, we’ll work with your doctors to get the necessary information.
How should I decide which surgeon’s advice to follow?
You should work with the surgeon with whom you feel comfortable, whether that’s one of our surgeons or not.
Do I have to get a second or third opinion for gallbladder surgery?
You can always get a second or third opinion, but it isn’t required.
What should I bring to my first appointment with a surgeon to talk about gallbladder surgery?
- Insurance information
- Medical records, including your medical history, from your primary care physician
Do I need a referral to see a surgeon about gallbladder surgery?
Your health insurance provider may require you to get a referral from your primary care provider to see a surgeon about gallbladder surgery.
How long does it take the anesthesia to wear off?
It takes about an hour for general anesthesia to wear off, but you may notice the effects for a day or so.
What do I need to bring to the hospital the day of my gallbladder surgery?
For most patients, gallbladder removal is outpatient surgery, and you’ll go home the same day. If you’re having open gallbladder removal surgery, you should anticipate a hospital stay of several nights and bring everything you’ll need for that time, including changes of underwear, glasses or contacts, headphones, and your medications.
Why am I asked for my name and date of birth every time I get medicine?
It’s a safety precaution to make sure you’re receiving the medication that’s prescribed for you.
Why are there so many people on my surgery team?
In addition to the surgeon, you have an anesthesiologist, nurses—some of them specialize in working with patients and others assist the surgeon—and support staff, who will check you in and out, compile your records, and more. They all work together, performing their individual jobs, so the procedure is as successful as possible.
Will I need someone to take me home after gallbladder surgery?
For your safety and the safety of other motorists, you will need someone to drive you home. If you don’t have a ride, we’ll help you arrange one.
What should I expect right before gallbladder surgery?
- You’ll arrive an hour before your surgery and be escorted to the preoperative waiting area.
- You’ll remove all of your clothing and jewelry, and put on a hospital gown. (Your valuables will be placed in a secure area or may be given to a family member.)
- You’ll sign any necessary paperwork and a preoperative nurse will take your vital signs, review your medications, and answer any questions.
- You’ll meet your surgery team and they’ll mark the location of the surgery on your body.
- An I.V. (intravenous line) will be placed in your hand or arm, so medications—including general anesthesia—can be administered.
- When it’s time for your surgery, you will be wheeled into the operating suite on a stretcher.
Why can’t I eat before surgery?
There’s a risk of aspiration, which means breathing foreign objects, like food or saliva, into your lungs. This can occur because the anesthetic for surgery can impair your body’s ability to stop the contents of your stomach from entering your lungs.
How should I prepare for gallbladder removal surgery?
You’ll be instructed not to eat anything after midnight on the day of your surgery, and you might also be told to stop taking certain medications or dietary supplements.
How long will I be in the hospital after gallbladder surgery?
If you’re having laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery, you’ll typically go home the same day. You should expect to spend two or three days in the hospital following open gallbladder removal surgery.
How long will I be under for gallbladder surgery?
You will be anesthetized during the entire procedure and a few minutes afterward.
How long will the gallbladder removal procedure take?
Gallbladder removal surgery typically takes one to two hours.
When will my family be informed about how I’m doing?
Our associates will get information from the surgical team in the operating room during your surgery and keep your family updated. Following the procedure, your surgeon will talk with them in person.
What will happen during gallbladder removal surgery?
If you’re having laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery, your surgeon will make four small incisions in your abdomen, one of which is for a tiny video camera through which the surgeon will view the procedure on a monitor. Tools are inserted through the other incisions, and the gallbladder is removed. Your surgeon may then want an X-ray or ultrasound to check for other issues, and your incisions will be sutured.
If you’re having open gallbladder removal surgery, your surgeon will make an incision about six inches long in your abdomen, pull back muscle and tissue, and remove your gallbladder, then suture your incision.
How soon after gallbladder surgery can I eat or drink?
Most people can start eating normally a few hours after gallbladder removal surgery. You may be asked to follow a clear fluid diet for a short time. After that, you should be able to return to solid foods—but easy-to-digest items, including soups, pudding, and yogurt, are recommended.
Will I receive pain medication right after gallbladder surgery?
In most cases, patients receive pain medication immediately following surgery.
How soon after gallbladder surgery will I be up and moving around?
In most cases, you should be able to get up and walk within hours of having gallbladder removal surgery.
When will I get to talk to my surgeon after surgery?
You’ll be able to talk to your surgeon after your procedure, in the recovery room or your hospital room.
How will I know if the gallbladder surgery worked?
Your surgeon will discuss your procedure with you. Removal of the gallbladder should eliminate gallstones and the pain, discomfort, and other symptoms they cause.
What can I expect right after gallbladder removal surgery?
Immediately following surgery, you’ll spend time in the recovery room and receive pain medication. If you’ve had laparoscopic surgery, you’ll be released when you’re able to walk unaided and eat and drink normally. If you’ve had open surgery, you’ll be taken to your hospital room where you will be able to see friends or family who came with you.
Insurance & Costs
What are payment options like for gallbladder surgery at Hancock Health?
Hancock Health is committed to helping make great care affordable for all patients. To find out more about payment options, please visit the billing and insurance FAQ page at HancockRegionalHospital.org.
Will Medicare cover gallbladder surgery?
Medicare parts A and B will cover the cost of gallbladder surgery, but it’s important for your doctor to indicate that the surgery is medically necessary.
Will insurance cover gallbladder surgery?
In most cases, insurance will cover most of the costs associated with medically necessary gallbladder removal surgery. To get an idea of what gallbladder surgery might cost, use our Price Estimator Tool.
How much does gallbladder surgery cost?
Consult the Price Transparency Tool at HancockRegionalHospital.org for an idea of how much gallbladder surgery might cost.
ASK A HANCOCK HEALTH EXPERT
When you have questions about surgery, our board-certified surgeons and expert surgical team members are ready to give you the answers you need.
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Whether you’re looking for an initial consultation or a second opinion—or you just have more questions—we’re here to help. Get in touch with us, and we’ll get back to you within one business day.