Learning About Gallbladder Removal Surgery

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What is it?

This surgery removes the gallbladder and gallstones, if you have any. The gallbladder stores bile made by your liver. The bile helps you digest fats. Gallstones are made of cholesterol and other things found in bile.

The surgery is also known as cholecystectomy (ko-luh-sis-TEK-tuh-mee).

Your body will work fine without a gallbladder. Bile will go straight from the liver to the intestine. There may be small changes in how you digest food. But you probably won't notice them.

How is the surgery done?

This is usually a laparoscopic surgery. To do this type of surgery, a doctor puts a lighted tube, or scope, and other surgical tools through small cuts (incisions) in your belly. The belly is filled with air. The air is injected with a needle. The air pushes the belly wall away from the organs so that the surgeon can see them clearly. The cuts leave scars that usually fade with time.

Open surgery may be done if problems are found during laparoscopic surgery. With open surgery, the gallbladder is removed through one larger cut in your belly. And the hospital stay is longer.

What can you expect after surgery?

You will probably feel weak and tired for several days after you return home. Your belly may be swollen. If you had a laparoscopy, the air used during surgery can irritate your diaphragm for a few days. This can cause some aches or pain in your shoulder for a couple of days after surgery.

You may have gas or need to burp a lot at first.

A few people get diarrhea. It usually goes away in 2 to 4 weeks. But it may last longer. How quickly you get better depends on which kind of surgery you had.

For laparoscopic surgery, most people can go back to work or their normal routine in 1 to 2 weeks. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.

If you have open surgery, it will probably take 4 to 6 weeks before you get back to your normal routine.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.