The gall bladder is part of the digestive system and is a storage bag for bile. Bile is produced by the liver and helps with the digestion of dietary fat.
What disorders can occur?
The most common reason for surgery of the gallbladder is gallstones (cholelithiasis). Bile is a highly concentrated fluid and over time can precipitate resulting in the formation of gallstones. Gallstones may result in symptoms of indigestion or spasms of upper abdominal pain resulting from contraction of smooth muscle of the biliary system (biliary colic). Gallstones can also result in recurrent episodes of inflammation or infection of the gall bladder (cholecystitis).
Why do I need gall bladder surgery?
Gall stones form due to precipitation and crystallization of cholesterol and bile pigments within the gallbladder. With incomplete emptying of the gallbladder these compounds accumulate to form larger concretions (gall stones). There is no effective treatment for gallstones other than surgical removal of the gall bladder.
What incision will I have?
Surgical removal of the gall bladder in most cases can be performed by keyhole surgery known as laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Using a fibreoptic camera and specifically designed instruments the operation can be safely performed through several keyhole incisions.
This is the traditional approach for gall bladder surgery performed through a single abdominal incision. An open procedure may be necessary in the event of unexpected bleeding or when dissection cannot be safely performed by keyhole surgery due to inflammation or scarring around the gall bladder. The need to convert from a laparoscopic to an open procedure is less than 2%.
What will the scar look like?
For my patients I use dissolving and buried stitches for an optimal cosmetic result. Scarring is usually minimal and with keyhole surgery the scars will often become virtually invisible.
What complications can occur?
Complications from gall bladder surgery are uncommon. Wound infection, bleeding, post-operative bile leak and incisional hernia may occur in up to 1% of patients. An injury to the common bile duct is a rare complication of gall bladder surgery (<0.2%), which requires an open procedure to repair or reconstruct the common bile duct. The risk of injury to the common bile duct is minimized by good surgical technique and conversion to an open cholecystectomy if dissection can not be safely be performed by keyhole surgery.
Will I need to be on medications after gall bladder surgery?
Other than mild pain relief medications you will not require any long term medications after gall bladder surgery. After surgery patients generally do not have any perceptible change of digestive tract function.
How long will I be in hospital and expected recovery time?
Most patients can be discharged the same day or after one night in hospital. Patient recovery is variable however after initial recovery from the anaesthetic most patients are reasonably comfortable and require minimal pain relief.
I recommend one week of recovery prior to starting work although many patients have recovered enough to return to work within a few days after surgery.
For more detailed patient information I recommend reading this document.