Gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy) is an operation to take out your gallbladder. It's a common treatment for gallstones. Sometimes, gallstones don’t cause symptoms. Or you may have abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting. You can live a healthy life without a gallbladder. If gallstones cause problems, your healthcare provider may recommend surgery.
Gallbladder removal is a surgery to take out a small organ called the gallbladder. Another name for gallbladder removal is cholecystectomy (KOL-i-si-STEK-tuh-mee).
If your gallbladder causes problems, you may have surgery to remove it. You may need to make some minor changes to your diet after a cholecystectomy. But you can live well without your gallbladder.
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Your gallbladder is a small organ in the upper right part of your abdomen (belly). It looks like a small pouch and stores bile. Bile is the liquid your liver produces that helps to break down fats.
People who have gallstones may need gallbladder removal. Gallstones are small, pebble-like deposits that build up in your gallbladder. Gallstones are typically made of bile byproducts called cholesterol or bilirubin. The stones usually form because of an imbalance in the substances that create bile.
Although there may be a chance that medications could be helpful, they haven’t been scientifically proven effective. Your provider may recommend surgery if your gallbladder causes you problems from gallstones. Depending on your general health, you may not need treatment if your gallstones don’t cause any symptoms.
A few weeks before surgery, you meet with your healthcare provider. At this appointment, you may:
Your surgeon may use open surgery or laparoscopic surgery to remove your gallbladder. With open surgery, your surgeon operates through one large incision. During laparoscopic surgery, your surgeon operates through a few small incisions. Laparoscopic surgery can lead to faster recovery, less pain and small scars.
Your surgeon may recommend open surgery if you can’t have laparoscopic surgery. For example, if you have a lot of scar tissue on your abdomen, your surgeon may need to use an open technique. Sometimes, your surgeon may need to turn a laparoscopic surgery into an open one to see more clearly and remove your gallbladder safely.
During an open cholecystectomy, your surgeon:
During a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, your surgeon:
After laparoscopic gallbladder removal, you usually return home the same day. You may have to stay in the hospital for a day or two after open surgery.
Someone needs to drive you home after gallbladder removal surgery. If you return home the same day as the operation, you should have someone stay with you for 24 hours.
Although your gallbladder is not essential, it helps you digest fatty foods. Immediately after gallbladder removal, you’ll need to avoid fatty and fried foods.
To avoid discomfort, fat calories after surgery should make up no more than 30% of your diet. In the weeks after surgery, reintroduce high-fiber foods slowly. Whole grains, nuts, seeds and vegetables may cause severe bloating or gas if you eat too much too quickly.
You can live a healthy life without your gallbladder. Most people don’t have long-term side effects of cholecystectomy. Like any other surgery, gallbladder removal carries some risks of bleeding or infection.
After gallbladder removal, you may have temporary side effects. For a few days, you might notice:
Yes. After the operation, your digestive system can still function. Your liver still makes bile so you can digest food. Instead of staying in your gallbladder, the bile drips directly into your digestive system. Most people can resume their usual diet once they recover from gallbladder surgery.
After open gallbladder removal, recovery typically takes around six to eight weeks. Recovery from laparoscopic gallbladder removal typically takes around two weeks.
Most people can drive and return to desk jobs within a week or two. If your job involves physical work or hours on your feet, speak with your healthcare provider. You may need to stay home from work or modify your routine for up to eight weeks.
See your healthcare provider right away if you experience:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Gallbladder removal or cholecystectomy is surgery to take out an organ called the gallbladder. You may need this surgery if you have gallstones. Gallstones are small pebble-like deposits that build up in your gallbladder. Your surgeon may use an open or laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Both procedures are safe, effective options, and most people recover within two to eight weeks. Cholecystectomy is a common treatment for gallstones. You can live well without your gallbladder.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/08/2021.
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