More than 500,000 people in the US and 50,000 in Canada have their gallbladders removed making it the most common surgery in North America. Despite many alternatives, most doctors recommend surgical removal the gallbladder, or a cholecystectomy. There are two primary ways to conduct this surgery:

Open Cholecystectomy: Removal of the gallbladder by making a large incision under the right rib cage or in the middle of the abdomen (from the belly button to the bottom-middle of your ribcage. The procedure usually takes 1 to 2 hours and recovery in the hospital is 2 to 5 days.

Laproscopic Cholecystectomy: Instead of one large incision, this surgery requires four small ones: one below the belly button, one above the belly button and two above the right hip. Before the incisions are made, you will put unconscious from general anesthesia. The cuts will be made, then a small lighted scope attached to a video camera (a laproscope) is inserted into one incision and other remote-controlled surgical tools are put in through the others.

Your abdomen is inflated with carbon dioxide or air so that there is space to move the tool around and to see your gallbladder. The operation takes one to two hours and recovery in a hospital may be less than a day.

In about 20% of laparoscopic gallbladder surgeries, the surgeon must immediately change to an open gallbladder surgery because of scar tissue, inflammation, injury, or internal bleeding.

Risks and Complications
The risks from both types of gallbladder surgery include:

  • Infection
  • Internal bleeding
  • Blood clots that can move to other parts of the body
  • Pneumonia (from long recovery periods after open surgery)
  • Injury to the common bile duct or cystic duct
  • Injury to the small intestines
  • Injury or cuts to the liver
  • Risks from general anesthesia
  • Bile leaking into your abdomen
  • Injury to arteries and veins
  • Gallstones falling into the abdominal cavity
  • Gallstones being forced into the common bile duct
  • Gallstones continuing to form in the liver and ducts

The complications and consequences or gallbladder removal can be:

  • Ongoing abdominal pain
  • Bloating and gas
  • Continual diarrhea, or postcholecystectomy syndrome


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