The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ that sits just beneath the liver which stores and releases bile, a fluid made by the liver. Before releasing it, the gallbladder concentrates bile by removing water. After a meal, bile is released by the gallbladder into small tubes called ducts and then travels to the small intestine, where it aids in fat digestion.
Sometimes bile can crystallize in the gallbladder, forming gallstones. Sometimes gallstones don’t cause any symptoms, but in other cases they can irritate the wall of the gallbladder. Usually this is not a serious health issue, but it can be painful and very uncomfortable. Gallstones can move into the ducts and cause blockages, becoming a more serious problem. Bile flow is stopped, which can lead to nausea, pain, and infection. A duct where problems commonly occur is the common bile duct. The common bile duct is formed from the joining of the ducts leading from the gallbladder and the liver. A blockage in the common bile duct can cause pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. Pain caused by a blockage is normally felt in the upper right side of the abdomen but can also be felt in the shoulder blade and back.
Problems with the gallbladder will be confirmed using tests such as an ultrasound or a HIDA scan. Removing the gallbladder is the best way to treat stones and prevent more from forming. The most common method to do this is through laparoscopic surgery. Laparoscopy is a less invasive form of surgery that uses a special tool called a laparoscope to see and operate inside the abdomen without large incisions.
Risk and Complications
Some risks and complications of gallbladder surgery include:
- Injury to common bile duct and nearby organs
- Bile leaks
- Blood clots in legs
- Prolonged diarrhea
What to Expect
You will be given general anesthesia for this surgery, meaning you will be asleep and unable to feel pain during the procedure. Dr. Robbins will make a few small incisions, known as port sites, in the abdomen. Next Dr. Robbins uses a harmless gas to inflate the abdomen. The gas allows Dr. Robbins to have a better view of the gallbladder because it lifts the abdominal wall away from the internal organs. The laparoscope is inserted into the abdomen through a port site. Other surgical instruments are carefully inserted and guided to the gallbladder. The laparoscope is connected to a screen that allows Dr. Robbins to see inside the abdomen. A catheter is inserted near the common bile duct to perform a cholangiogram. A cholangiogram is a type of x-ray that uses a special dye to determine whether or not any stones have moved into the ducts. Before removing the gallbladder, Dr. Robbins closes off the bile duct and blood vessels above and below the detachment point. These clips are made of substances that are safe to leave in the body. They prevent any blood loss and bile leakage. Dr. Robbins will next remove the gallbladder and any stones through a port site. All surgical instruments are withdrawn from the abdomen, and the gas is drained from the abdomen. The incisions are next closed using sutures or a special kind of glue.
Preparing for Your Procedure
Our office will tell you how to prepare for your procedure. This includes special instructions about medications. Be sure to follow the instructions we give you, or your surgery may have to be canceled. Below are some guidelines to follow.
- Tell us about any allergies you have.
- Tell us about any medications you take, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, supplements, and herbs. Make adjustments to your medications as instructed.
- Don’t drink or eat after midnight the night before you surgery. Do not smoke, chew tobacco, or chew gum after midnight. If you were instructed to continue any medications, take them with a sip of water only.
- Arrange a ride home for when your recovery is finished.
The Day of the Procedure
- Arrive on time to the hospital.
- Bring all medications you take with you to the hospital.
Usually you will be discharged from the hospital the same day as your gallbladder surgery. Some bruising and abdominal cramping is normal and should go away with time. You do not have to follow a special diet after having your gallbladder removed, but it may be more comfortable for you to start by eating light meals. You should be able to return to normal activity as soon as you feel ready, but some basic guidelines for home recovery are:
- Take all medications as instructed
- Avoid heavy lifting for at least a week
- Wait to be cleared before driving and returning to work
- Eat healthy, high-fiber foods to prevent diarrhea and loose stools
- Take short walks to aid circulation
When to Call VascularTyler
Call our office if you experience any of the following:
- A large amount of bruising or swelling
- Sharp or increasing pain
- Fever or chills
- Nausea or vomiting for more than 12 hours
- Increasing redness or pain of the incision
- Prolonged diarrhea