Everything You Need To Know About Gallbladder Surgery
Your gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ that sits on the right side of your abdomen, just under your liver. If you’re experiencing any issues related to your gallbladder, your doctor may recommend having it removed with a surgery called a cholecystectomy. This is one of the most common surgeries performed in the United States, with around half a million patients getting their gallbladder removed every year. If you’re considering gallbladder surgery, here is everything you need to know about the procedure.
What Does Your Gallbladder Do?
Measuring just 4 inches, your gallbladder is one of the smaller organs in your body. However, it serves an important purpose. The gallbladder stores bile, which aids in digesting fats and vitamins. After eating, hormones trigger it to compress and release the bile into your intestines.
Signs You Need Gallbladder Surgery
Sometimes, the chemicals and bile in your gallbladder become imbalanced and cause gallstones to form. These solid masses are generally made up of cholesterol but can also form from other materials in people with certain medical conditions. Gallstones vary in size, ranging from being as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. You can develop just one gallstone or several at once.
Having gallstones doesn’t necessarily mean you need gallbladder surgery. However, if they make their way into a duct and prevent bile from being released, it can cause your gallbladder to swell and become inflamed. Some common symptoms include:
- – Sharp, intense pain on the right side of your abdomen. Pain can also be experienced in the center of your abdomen, just below your breast bone
- – Nausea
- – Low-grade fever
- – Jaundice (the yellowing of your skin or eyes)
- – Pain between your shoulder blades
- – Pain in your right shoulder
- – Vomiting
- – Heartburn
The pain is generally temporary, but it is possible for it to last up to 24 hours. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to make an appointment with your doctor. They will perform a variety of diagnostic tests, like an ultrasound, blood test, or x-ray. This can help them rule out things like liver disease or needing diverticulitis surgery. Depending on the results, your doctor may recommend gallbladder surgery.
Several factors may increase your chances of developing gallstones. Research has shown that people with a higher risk include:
- – Native Americans
- – Mexican-Americans
- – Females
- – People over the age of 40
- – Those who are obese or overweight
- – Pregnant women
- – People who consume a diet high in fat, sugar, and cholesterol
- – Diabetics
- – Anyone who has experienced rapid weight loss
- – People taking medication containing estrogen, like oral contraceptives or hormone therapy
- – Anyone with a family history of gallstones
Gallbladder Surgery Options
Much like your appendix, your gallbladder is not necessary for your body to properly function. Gallbladder surgeons perform two main types of gallbladder removal procedures. The most common is a minimally invasive surgery called laparoscopic cholecystectomy. The other option is an open cholecystectomy, though this is much less prevalent. In fact, only 1 to 3% of patients with gallbladder disease require this type of procedure. There are also surgical options to remove gallstones from the bile duct. Your doctor will determine which gallbladder surgery is right for you.
The most common form of gallbladder surgery is laparoscopic cholecystectomy. During this procedure, the surgeon will make 4 tiny incisions, each less than an inch long. An instrument is inserted to inflate the abdomen and allow the surgeon to view the gallbladder more clearly. Using a laparoscope containing a small light and video camera and other surgical instruments, the gallbladder is removed. The incisions are closed with several sutures, staples, or steri-strips. This procedure is relatively quick. You can expect it to take just one to two hours.
Benefits of laparoscopic cholecystectomy include:
- – It is minimally invasive with smaller incisions and less blood loss
- – There is a faster recovery time and return to daily activities
- – You’ll spend less time in the hospital, often going home the same day as the surgery
- – You’ll experience less pain
- – There is a smaller chance of developing an infection
In rare cases, either before or during surgery, your surgeon will determine that an open cholecystectomy is the safest option. There are various reasons for this, like if your gallbladder is extremely inflamed or scarred or if you have a history of developing scar tissue after previous procedures. Your surgeon also might be able to see your organs better and avoid issues with bleeding during the operation this way. An open cholecystectomy requires the surgeon to make an incision in your right upper right abdomen. The incision is typically around 6 inches long, and the surgeon will remove your gallbladder by cutting through fat and muscle. This option is also a relatively fast surgery, usually lasting around one to two hours. The recovery period for an open cholecystectomy is much longer than the laparoscopic option. Because it’s more invasive, you can expect to spend a few days recovering in the hospital, and it may take up to six weeks to fully return to your normal daily activities.
Risks of Gallbladder Surgery
No matter which form of gallbladder surgery you have, both come with risks. There is generally just a minimal risk of having any complications, which can include:
- – Infection
- – Bile leakage
- – Kidney problems
- – Blood clots
- – Injury to intestines and other organs in your abdomen
Your surgeon and nurses will watch for any signs of these risks during the procedure and while you’re recovering.
What to Expect After Gallbladder Surgery
Most likely, you will be able to go home on the day of your surgery. However, because of the anesthesia, you should not drive or drink alcohol for at least 2 days. A small amount of pain is completely normal, typically at the incision site and in your abdomen. Most patients don’t need to take any prescription pain killers after the surgery. Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen are usually recommended.
When you return home, you can walk freely and go up and down the stairs. You should start feeling better day by day and can slowly start increasing your activity. You will likely be back to your normal activities after about a week. As your incisions begin to heal, some drainage is normal. Your surgeon will give you instructions on when and if you’ll need to change any of your bandages. Ask your doctor when it is safe to return to work.
After your gallbladder surgery, call your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- – Thick, yellow drainage at the incision site
- – Your pain has gotten worse or will not go away
- – Fever of 101 degrees or more
- – Swelling or redness at your incision
- – You haven’t had a bowel movement or unable to pass gas for three days
- – Diarhhea that lasts more than three days
- – Vomiting
- – Yellowing of skin or eyes
Any of these symptoms may indicate an infection or other health condition. Be sure to contact your general doctor or surgeon immediately.
Gallbladder Surgery at Long Island Laparoscopic Doctors
If you’re looking for gallbladder surgeons Commack NY and surrounding areas depend on, look no further than Long Island Laparoscopic Doctors. If your doctor has recommended gallbladder surgery, contact us today to schedule a consultation. We also offer a range of other procedures, including weight loss surgery and colon cancer surgery. Get in touch with us to learn more.