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Gallbladder Surgery for Gallbladder Stones Treatment

The most common treatment for gallstones is removing your gallbladder. The gallbladder is not an essential organ, which means that you can live normally without one. It is a storage organ for bile. Bile helps to digest the fats we eat.

Once your surgeon removes your gallbladder, the bile that had been stored in your gallbladder empties instead into the hepatic and common bile ducts. From there, it goes directly into the duodenum, the first part of your intestine.

Gallbladder Removal Surgery

Surgery to remove a gallbladder is called a cholecystectomy. There are two different types: laparoscopic (with a camera) and open (with a bigger incision).

Laparoscopic Gallbladder Surgery (Cholecystectomy)

In a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, the surgeon makes several small incisions in your abdomen. The largest of these incisions is usually about two to two and a half inches long. The surgeon inserts a laparoscope, or an instrument with a camera attached to it, to see inside your body. The image is magnified on a video monitor, giving your surgeon a close-up view of your organs and tissues.

The surgeon then uses instruments to carefully separate your gallbladder from the liver, bile ducts, and other structures. Then the surgeon removes your gallbladder through one of the small incisions.

For this surgery, patients usually receive general anesthesia (go completely to sleep).

Surgeons perform most cholecystectomies with laparoscopy. Most patients are able to have the surgery and go home the same day. You will be able to start doing your normal activities in about a week.

Open Cholecystectomy

When your gallbladder is severely inflamed or infected, or you have internal scar tissue from previous operations, your surgeon may perform an open cholecystectomy. For this procedure, the surgeon operates through an incision about four to six inches long in your abdomen. This incision is to remove the gallbladder. 

For this procedure, patients usually receive general anesthesia. Recovering from open cholecystectomy may require some people to stay in the hospital for up to a week. You will be able to start doing your normal activities after about a month.

Your surgeon may also perform an open cholecystectomy if problems occur during a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. This would be done if for some reason the laparoscopic procedure cannot proceed safely.

Possible Gallbladder Surgery Complications

A small number of people have softer and more frequent stools after their gallbladder removal. This is because bile flows into the duodenum more often. These changes in bowel habits are usually temporary. Be sure, however, to discuss them with your health care provider. 

Other complications from gallbladder surgery are rare. The most serious of these is injury to the bile ducts. An injured common bile duct can leak bile, causing pain, and possibly infection or liver damage. You may need one or more additional operations to repair the bile ducts. Fortunately, this is the least common complication of gallbladder surgery, and happens in fewer than one percent of all operations.

What to Expect at Gallbladder Surgery

If you are seen in our office, we will schedule your surgery one to three weeks ahead of time, depending on your schedule and surgeon availability. We may also need to order blood work, depending on your health and the information we already have.

Some patients will also need an appointment with anesthesiology prior to surgery.

Day of Surgery

On the day of your surgery, we will ask you to arrive at your appointment time. You will check in at the admission desk to your right inside the front door. We will then walk you to the operation preparation room, where a nurse will check you in and put you in a private room.

Here you will meet your anesthesia team and the operating room team. You will have an IV placed. We will then take you to the operating room, where the anesthesiologist will start the general anesthesia and you will go to sleep for the whole operation.

Once your surgery is finished, you will be able to wake up and recover from anesthesia in the recovery room. Your doctor will give you prescriptions and recovery instructions.

At University of Utah Hospital, we offer free valet parking.

Gallbladder Surgery Recovery

If you have had laparoscopic surgery, you will most likely be able to check out of the hospital a few hours after your surgery. You will need someone to pick you up from the surgery as you won’t be able to drive yourself home.

Once home, you should plan to rest for the next several days. Even with small incisions, the operation still puts stress on your body and you should take it easy to let yourself recover. We will want you to walk around, as this helps you recover faster.

We will send you home with prescriptions for stool softeners, nausea medication, and pain killers. You should be able to control your pain with Tylenol and ibuprofen after the first 24-48 hours.

Diet After Gallbladder Removal

You can eat whatever you want after your operation. Your first meal should be light, as some people can experience nausea after anesthesia. It is important to drink plenty of water in the first several days. Don't worry if your appetite isn’t the same for the first couple of days after surgery, but call your doctor if you still feel unable to eat normally after the first week.

Gallbladder Surgery Scars

Scars from gallbladder surgery will depend on the type of surgery you have. To perform a laparoscopic surgery, surgeons need only tiny incisions. The location of these will vary depending on the technique your surgeon uses. Most surgeons will use dissolvable sutures that will not need to be removed.

Open gallbladder surgery is done through an upper abdomen incision or an incision under your ribs. You may have dissolvable sutures or staples that will be removed in clinic at your follow up appointment.  

Find a Gallbladder Surgeon

Why Choose University of Utah Health

Quality is one of the most important aspects of care at our institution. We are continually nominated as top in the nation for our high-quality care. We also bring together some of the top specialists in the surgical field.

At University of Utah Health, our surgeons are fellowship trained and committed to the highest standards of patient care.

We work directly with your primary care provider to get you the best care possible. We also follow up with you to make sure you are fully recovered.

Get more information about gallbladder removal surgery. Call 801-585-1618 or