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A laparoscopic (keyhole) Cholecystectomy involves the surgical removal of the gallbladder. This is usually recommended when gallstones have formed and are causing health complications (most often manifest as abdominal pain).
About gallbladder removal surgery
The first and most important point to make is that the gallbladder is not an essential organ and you can expect to live a normal life once it has been removed.
Gallbladder removal is usually undertaken laparoscopically (keyhole) but there are a minority of cases that need to be done as open procedures. An open procedure would only usually be necessary when the gallbladder is found to be very inflamed. With our surgeons over 99% of cases are successfully completed laparoscopically. The benefit of this is that you can usually go home the same day and expect a swift recovery. Most people are able to go back to work in 4 or 5 days assuming their work is not too strenuous.
The keyhole surgical technique normally requires the surgeon to make just 4 make small horizontal incisions in the abdomen through which the laparoscope (the source of light and camera) and instruments required to do the procedure are passed.
The procedure is performed under general anaesthetic and usually takes no more than 30-60 minutes in theatre. Due to this, we have an age restriction of 75 for our procedures.
Gallstones are small ‘stones’ that form in the gallbladder. They are quite common. Some people have gallstones and are without symptoms but for others they result in frequent flare-ups of abdominal pain.
It’s impossible to predict who will get gallstones but we know that they are more common as we get older and among people who follow a diet that is rich in fat. They are also more likely to occur in people who have lost weight rapidly. People who have had weight loss surgery such as gastric sleeve and gastric bypass are more prone to gallstones in the years after surgery.
There are few treatment options for patients with symptomatic gallstones. You can change to a low fat diet but this is unlikely to help much in the more severe cases and in the longer term.
Contrary to treatment for kidney stones, it is not possible to effectively dissolve gall stones or shatter them into small pieces using shock waves, and antibiotics are only used to treat infections of the gallbladder.
Thus the usual treatment for patients with symptomatic gallstones is keyhole removal of the gallbladder.
The primary benefit of surgery is that you should be free of pain and able to eat a normal diet. Surgery should also prevent the longer term complications associated with untreated gallstones.
What are the complications of gallbladder surgery?
There are complications associated with all types of surgery and complications associated specifically with cholecystectomy. These complications are listed below. When we meet for consultation we will talk about these, incidence rates and how they might affect you.
Although it may appear a long list, as we have stated before, laparoscopic cholecystectomy is proven to be a very safe procedure so incidence rates for these complications are very low.
- Leaking of bile or stones
- Retained stones
- Persistent pain
- Inflammation in the abdomen
- Common Bile duct injury – this is a very serious injury but the incidence is low at approximately 1 in 200 patients.
- Bowel injury
- Serious damage to the liver
Unless we agree otherwise beforehand, we expect my patients to go home the same day.
We expect you to be able to return to light work in 4-7 days. It’s important that your work isn’t strenuous. We encourage exercise to accelerate your recovery but you shouldn’t do this too soon.
We will send a copy of your discharge letter to your GP so that they are fully informed and able to support your recovery. We will also provide you with instructions upon discharge about the diet to follow in the weeks ahead, any medication that has been prescribed or is needed and exercise. It is important for you to read these notes carefully and follow them. Of course we are here to support that process too.