What is a laparoscopic cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal)?

A laparoscopic cholecystectomy is a surgery during which the doctor removes your gallbladder. This procedure uses several small cuts instead of one large one.

A laparoscope, a narrow tube with a camera, is inserted through one incision. This allows your doctor to see your gallbladder on a screen. Your gallbladder is then removed through another small incision.

When is a laparoscopic cholecystectomy used?

The procedure is used when you have stones in your gallbladder.

The gallbladder stores bile, a fluid made by your liver. Bile helps digest fats in the foods you eat. Gallstones can block the flow of bile in your digestive system. This blockage can cause bloating, nausea, vomiting, and pain in your abdomen, shoulder, back, or chest. Gallstones can also block the ducts that channel the bile from the liver or gallbladder to the intestine. Gallstones can cause the gallbladder to become infected. A blockage in the common bile duct can cause jaundice (yellowing of your skin or eyes) or irritate the pancreas.

What happens during the surgery?

A general anesthetic is given to relax your muscles, prevent pain, and help you fall asleep. Your abdomen is inflated with carbon dioxide, a harmless gas. The laparoscope is then inserted through a cut in your navel, so your doctor can look inside. A cholangiogram (a special X-ray) may be done while the surgery is going on to check for stones in your common bile duct.

Other instruments are then inserted through additional small incisions. Your gallbladder is removed through one of these incisions.

What are the potential risks and complications?

The risk of complications is very low, however, potential risks might include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Common bile duct injury
  • Minor shoulder pain (from the carbon dioxide gas)
  • Bile leakage

What are the benefits of laparoscopic cholecystectomy?

  • Less discomfort than regular surgery
  • Shorter hospital stay, with a quicker recovery time compared to regular (open) surgery
  • Smaller scars than regular surgery

Call your doctor if you experience:

  • Increasing pain and redness at an incision (cut) site
  • Fever higher than 101 degrees
  • Draining at the incision site that increases or becomes foul smelling

What is an open cholecystectomy?

A cholecystectomy is the removal of your gallbladder through a cut in the upper abdomen.

An open cholecystectomy might be required instead of a laparoscopic cholecystectomy because of:

  • Major scarring from a previous surgery
  • A bleeding disorder
  • A condition that would make it difficult to see through the laparoscope

What happens during an open cholecystectomy?

A general anesthetic is given to relax your muscles, prevent pain, and help you fall asleep. A single cut is made below the right side of your rib cage or in the center of the abdomen. Your doctor can see the gallbladder and surrounding anatomy through the cut. The gallbladder is cut away from surrounding tissue. The blood supply is tied off and divided. Sometimes a cholangiogram (a special X-ray) is done to check for stones in the common bile duct. If there are stones in the common bile duct, they are removed at this time. The skin is closed using surgical clips and stitches.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 6/2/2016...#7017