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The gallbladder is an organ in your body that stores bile. Bile is a bitter, yellow fluid produced by your liver. Bile is released by your gallbladder into the small intestine when you eat and helps to break down fats.

When the components that make up bile get out of balance gallstones can form. Gallstones are frequently not a problem and go unnoticed. However if a gallstone becomes trapped in the opening (duct) in your gall bladder it can cause severe abdominal pain lasting from one to five hours.

Left untreated gallstone disease can cause persistent pain, yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice) and elevated body temperature. In severe cases gallstones can move to the pancreas causing pain and inflammation.

Treatment for gallstones usually involves minimally invasive keyhole surgery (laparoscopic cholecystectomy).

What happens during laparoscopic cholecystectomy?

A laparoscopic cholecystectomy is usually performed under general anaesthetic and takes about an hour.

Your surgeon will make several small incisions (cuts) in your abdomen (stomach). They will place surgical instruments, along with a tube connected to a light and camera (called a laparoscope) inside your abdomen to perform the operation. So your surgeon will have room to work your abdomen will be inflated with carbon dioxide. 

Your surgeon will free up your gallbladder duct (cystic duct) and artery. They will then separate your gallbladder from your liver and remove it through one of the incisions.

After your operation

Once your operation is over, you’ll be taken to the recovery room where you will wake from the anaesthetic. Your wounds, blood pressure and pulse will be checked carefully.

You may have a drain in your abdomen to remove fluid. This will be removed before you leave hospital.

You may also have a drip (infusion) going into your arm. This will keep you hydrated until you are able to drink. When you are stable and comfortable, a nurse will take you to your room.

Going home after laparoscopic cholecystectomy

Most people recover quickly from laparoscopic cholecystectomy. You may be able to go home the day of your surgery or stay just one night. You should arrange for someone to drive you home as the effects of anaesthesia can take a few hours to wear off.

You may have pain from your surgical wounds and your abdomen may fell bloated. This should ease after several days. Be sure and take any painkillers you have been given as prescribed.

If your wounds were closed by removable stitches you will need to have them removed by the Practice Nurse at your GP’s office.

Avoid any strenuous activity or heavy lifting for the first two weeks. Be sure and discuss any return to work with your surgeon.

What are the complications of laparoscopic cholecystectomy?

As with any surgery there can be complications:

General complications of surgery:

Specific complications of laparoscopic cholecystectomy might include:
  • Damage to internal organs
  • Developing a hernia in the scar
  • Leaking of bile
  • Retained stones
  • Diarrhoea
  • Inflammation of the abdomen.