Laparoscopic cholecystectomy or Laparoscopic Gallbladder Removal: Purpose, Risk, Preparation, Procedure and Recovery Time

Laparoscopic gallbladder removal is a minimally invasive surgery in which a diseased or inflamed gallbladder is removed using a small incisions and specialized tools.

Updated: September 28, 2019

Laparoscopic gallbladder removal is a minimally invasive surgery in which a diseased or inflamed gallbladder is removed using a small incisions and specialized tools.
The gallbladder is a small organ located just below your liver in your right upper abdomen. The liquid called bile produced in the liver is stored in gallbladder and will be released into the small bowel to help break down and absorb dietary fats.
As normal digestion is possible without a gallbladder, removal of gallbladder will not create any problem and is a treatment option if it becomes significantly diseased or inflamed. Laparoscopic removal is the most common type of gallbladder removal surgery which is known as laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

Purpose of Laparoscopic cholecystectomy:

Usually a gallbladder is removed due to the presence of gallstones and the complications they cause. The presence of gallstones is called cholelithiasis. If substances in the bile become solid, it form gallstones inside the gallbladder. They can be as small as a grain of sand and as large as a golf ball.
This type of surgery is required for the following condition of your gallbladder.

  • biliary dyskinesia:  This occurs when the gallbladder doesn't empty bile correctly due to a defect
  • choledocholithiasis: This occurs when gallstones move to the common bile duct and potentially cause a blockage that prevents the gallbladder and rest of the biliary tree from draining
  • cholecystitis: It is an inflammation of the gallbladder
  • pancreatitis: It is an inflammation of the pancreas that is related to gallstones

In laparoscopic surgery, your surgeon makes smaller incisions which reduce your risk of infection, bleeding, and recovery time. This is the reason why it is is preferred to open surgery.

Risks of Laparoscopic cholecystectomy:

Although every surgical procedure carries some major complication risks, they are typically rare for a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. A complete physical examination and reviewing your medical history before the procedure will help your doctor minimize these risks.
The risks of laparoscopic cholecystectomy include:

  • allergic or adverse reaction to anesthesia or other drugs
  • bleeding
  • infection
  • injury to the bile duct, liver, or small intestine
  • blood clots
  • damage to blood vessels
  • heart problems, such as a rapid heart rate
  • pancreatitis

Preparation of Laparoscopic cholecystectomy:

Blood tests, imaging tests of your gallbladder, a complete physical exam and a review of your medical history will be done beforehand to ensure that you are healthy enough for the procedure. Any prescription or over the counter medications that you are taking should be informed to your doctor. As they could affect the outcome of laparoscopy, your doctor may change the dose of any medications and will tell you how they should be used before and after the procedure.
These medications include:

  • anticoagulants, such as blood thinners
  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin or ibuprofen
  • other medications that affect blood clotting
  • herbal or dietary supplements
  • vitamin K

You should also tell your doctor if you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant. This will reduce the risk of harm to your fetus. You will probably need to do fasting for at least eight hours before laparoscopy. During this period you can drink only water. Avoid eating and drinking anything else. As Laparoscopy is often performed using general anesthesia, which can make you drowsy and unable to drive for several hours after surgery, you should also arrange for a family member or friend to drive you home after the procedure.

Procedure of Laparoscopic cholecystectomy:

Laparoscopy is usually done as an outpatient procedure in a hospital or an outpatient surgical center. You will be able to go home the same day as your surgery. You will likely be given general anesthesia for this type of surgery so that you won't feel any pain during the procedure. An intravenous (IV) line is inserted in one of your veins to receive general anesthesia as well as special medications. Through this IV you will be also provided hydration with fluids. Sometimes local anesthesia is used instead which numbs the area. Even though you will be awake during the surgery, you won't feel any pain.
The surgeon makes an incision below your belly button, and then inserts a small tube called a cannula during laparoscopy. The cannula is used to inflate your abdomen with carbon dioxide gas. This gas allows your doctor to see your abdominal organs more clearly. Then  the laparoscope will be inserted through the incision once your abdomen is inflated. The images on a screen will be displayed by the camera attached to the laparoscope, allowing your organs to be viewed in real time. The surgon will remove your gallbladder through the incisions while looking at a monitor that shows what the camera captures.
A special X-ray will be used to check for problems in your bile duct after your gallbladder is removed. This technique is called intraoperative cholangiography. This shows any abnormalities in the remaining bile duct structures, like a bile stone. If there is presence of any bile stone, your surgeon may need to remove those while looking at a monitor that shows what the camera captures. The instruments are removed after the procedure is done. Your incisions are then closed with stitches or surgical tape. Bandages may be placed over the incisions. You are brought to a room to recover from the anesthesia and your vital signs such as breathing and heart rate, will be monitored closely. Any adverse reactions to the anesthesia or the procedure will also be checked. Hospital staff will also monitor for prolonged bleeding.

Recovery Time of Laparoscopic cholecystectomy:

The timing of your release will vary. It depends on

  • your overall physical condition
  • the type of anesthesia used
  • your body's reaction to the surgery

You may have to remain in the hospital overnight in some cases. As the effects of general anesthesia usually take several hours to wear off, so it can be unsafe to drive after the procedure. Therefore to be on the safer side a family member or friend will need to drive you home if you received general anesthesia. You may feel moderate pain and throbbing in the areas where incisions were made in the days following laparoscopy. Usually you will have shoulder pain after your procedure as a result of the carbon dioxide gas used to inflate your abdomen to create a working space for the surgical instruments. The gas can irritate your diaphragm, which shares nerves with your shoulder. It may also cause some bloating. The discomfort and pain should go away within a couple of days. Medication are prescribed to relieve the pain. Usually you can resume all normal activities within a week. However, you will need to attend a follow-up appointment with your doctor about two weeks after laparoscopy.
For a smoother recovery you can follow the below things:

  • Begin light activity as soon as you are able, in order to reduce your risk of blood clots.
  • Get more sleep than you normally do.
  • Use throat lozenges to ease the pain of a sore throat.
  • Wear loose fitting clothes.

You need to care for your incision wounds while you recover. This includes washing them properly. The symptoms related to eating after the gallbladder removal surgery are mild and rare, but you may experience some diarrhea.


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