Surgery to removal a gallbladder is called cholecystectomy. Each year, about 700,000 people in the U.S. have a cholecystectomy – making it one of the most common surgical procedures.
Surgeons typically remove gallbladders using laparoscopy, a minimally invasive procedure. About 5 percent of the time an open cholecystectomy is necessary.
There are various approaches to laparoscopic cholecystectomy, but they all include the same steps:
- The surgeon makes several small incisions in the patient’s abdomen
- The abdomen is inflated with carbon dioxide to give the surgeon room to work
- Surgical instruments, a light source and a tiny camera are inserted though the holes
- The surgeon separates the gallbladder from the liver and other structures
- The gallbladder is removed through one of the small incisions
- The incisions are closed with just a few stitches
After a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, you are likely to go home within 2 to 6 hours. If your job doesn’t require heavy lifting, you will probably return to work within a week or less.
While laparoscopic cholecystectomy allows for a quick recovery with minimal pain, some people are not candidates for the procedure. Patients who are obese, have had previous abdominal surgery or who have some other prohibiting factor may require an open surgery.
With open cholecystectomy, the goal is the same: to detach the gallbladder from the liver and other structures and remove it. But instead of a number of small holes, the surgeon makes one 4- to 8-inch incision in the abdomen.
If you have open surgery, you will probably be in the hospital about 2 to 4 days, and return to normal activities in 4 to 6 weeks.
Cholecystectomies can also be done robotically. Robotic surgery is designed to overcome the limitations of standard laparoscopy with enhanced capabilities, including high-definition 3D vision and a magnified view. Robotic surgery uses flexible instruments that fit more easily into tight spaces and mimic the motion of the surgeon’s hands and wrists. This allows for smaller incisions with greater precision.
Although cholecystectomies are commonly done, they are not commonly done on you. You will want to find the best surgeon for your operation. What makes one surgeon a better choice than another? Experience and their hospital team. Numerous studies have shown that the skill and experience of the surgical team has a direct impact on the outcome of any surgery.
When talking with a surgeon, it’s a good idea to ask:
- How many cholecystectomies have you performed?
- What were the outcomes of the surgeries?
- What kind of experience does the surgical team have?
- How many of these procedures are performed at the medical center each year?
You can also ask your surgeon to recommend another surgeon who can give you a second opinion about your procedure. Many people hesitate to seek a second opinion for fear of insulting their doctor. But, in fact, seeking a second opinion is a common medical practice.
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