Gallbladder and Gallbladder Surgery Q&A with Dr. Joao Lopes
Gallbladder surgery or cholecystectomy is a very common general surgery procedure in the United States. Gallbladder disease affects women significantly more often than men. For most gallbladder conditions the definitive, curative treatment is the removal of the gallbladder. Luckily the gallbladder is not an essential organ, so side effects after surgery are mild and recovery is relatively quick.
Why would I need gallbladder surgery?
The most common cause for needing gallbladder surgery is the development of symptomatic gallstones. About 10 to 20% of patients with gallstones developed symptoms and subsequently are recommended to have their gallbladder removed. The gallbladder can also become inflamed or infected for other reasons and will similarly require removal.
What are the symptoms of gallstones?
Symptoms can vary between patients but typically include pain or discomfort in the upper part of the abdomen – Usually in the center or right-hand side. This pain can be referred to the back or even the shoulder. Some patients will experience nausea and vomiting during a particularly strong “attack.” If a gallstone becomes lodged in the common bile duct, the pancreas and liver may become involved. Pancreatitis and jaundice may develop as a result. Both are concerning issues that need to be addressed immediately.
What causes gallstones?
Gallstones are caused by a variety of conditions. Middle-aged women, those suffering from obesity, those who lose weight quickly or yo-yo diet frequently and those who are chronically dehydrated all have a higher risk of developing gallstones. There may be a genetic component involved as well.
How is gallbladder disease diagnosed?
Beyond a comprehensive medical exam by a qualified physician or surgeon, ultrasound imaging is the best diagnostic tool for gallbladder issues including gallstones.
What are the options for treating gallbladder disease?
If the inflammation of the gallbladder can be managed with medication, antibiotics maybe the extent of treatment. Failing that, the only truly effective long-term option for treating gallbladder disease is removal of the organ.
Do I need my gallbladder?
The gallbladder does not perform any vital function in the body and therefore patients live a normal and healthy life when their gallbladder is removed.
Is gallbladder surgery safe?
Gallbladder surgery, when performed laparoscopically, is one of the safest general surgical procedures. The complication rate is extremely low in the hands of an experienced general surgeon.
Do I have to remove my gallbladder right away?
The short answer is no, however you risk certain complications by waiting when there is a clear indication for surgery. Gallstones do not go away and gallstone attacks typically get worse over time. Acute or chronic inflammation of the gallbladder not only causes problems with the organ itself, but may create issues with neighboring organs such as the pancreas and liver. If left untreated, these issues can lead to an emergency.
How long does the surgery last?
An uneventful laparoscopic cholecystectomy or gallbladder removal requires about 30 to 45 minutes of operative time, one to two hours of preoperative preparation and approximately an hour or two of recovery time.
How long will I be in the hospital?
Laparoscopic or minimally invasive gallbladder removals are typically performed on an outpatient basis meaning you will leave the surgical facility on the same day as your surgery.
Do I have gallbladder cancer?
Gallstones and other gallbladder disease is not necessarily indicative of gallbladder cancer. Indeed, gallbladder cancer is a very rare condition. However, after surgery, we do send your gallbladder to pathology to ensure there is no malignancy.
What can I eat after gallbladder removal?
There are no dietary restrictions after surgery, however because of the anesthesia and narcotic pain medication, you may experience a lack of appetite for a few days.
Will I gain weight after my gallbladder is removed?
There is no solid evidence to suggest that the removal of a gallbladder alone causes weight regain. Some patients will find that they can now eat spicy and fatty foods that they could not beforehand. This liberalization of the diet is often a cause of weight regain after surgery. Read our blog post on gaining weight after gallbladder surgery.
Will I have any G.I. issues after surgery?
As the liver becomes accustomed to being the primary distribution method of bile, there may be an adjustment period during which you will experience some flatulence and loose stools. This usually resolves within a few weeks of surgery. If you have any questions or concerns about your gastrointestinal issues, please contact us. You may also wish to limit your intake of spicy and fatty foods for several weeks after surgery as your body acclimates.
When can I begin exercising after surgery?
Exercise is encouraged soon after surgery. Do only as much as your body will allow with minimal discomfort. Walking in the first few days after surgery is very important, after which time you will have no restrictions on exercise. If you develop any significant pain, tone down your exercise regimen and call our office.
When can I go back to work?
Most patients will be able to go back to work within 3 to 5 days after surgery. More strenuous activity should be avoided for a week or two after surgery
When is follow-up?
You will visit with one of our surgeons to evaluate the progress of your recovery at approximately 2 weeks after surgery
When do I need to call the office?
You will receive a postoperative packet that explains what you should expect and what is not normal. For any emergencies, you need to call 911 or visit your nearest emergency room immediatey. For other non-emergency questions, our office is available to help.