Laparoscopic gallbladder removal is surgery to remove the gallbladder using a medical device called a laparoscope.
Surgery using a laparoscope is the most common way to remove the gallbladder. A laparoscope is a thin, lighted tube that lets the doctor see inside your belly.
Gallbladder removal surgery is done while you are under general anesthesia so you will be asleep and pain-free.
The operation is done the following way:
- The surgeon makes three to four small cuts (incisions) in your belly.
- The laparoscope is inserted through one of the cuts.
- Other medical instruments are inserted through the other cuts.
- Gas is pumped into your belly to expand the space. This gives the surgeon more room to see and work.
- The gallbladder is then removed using the laparoscope.
An x-ray called a cholangiogram may be done during your surgery.
- To do this test, dye is injected into your common bile duct and an x-ray picture is taken. The dye helps find stones that may be outside your gallbladder.
- If other stones are found, the surgeon may remove them with a special instrument.
Sometimes the surgeon cannot safely take out the gallbladder using a laparoscope. In this case, the surgeon will use open surgery, in which a larger incision is made.
Why the Procedure is Performed
You may need gallbladder removal surgery if you have pain or other symptoms from gallstones. You may also need it if your gallbladder is not working normally.
Common symptoms may include:
- Pain after eating, usually in the upper right or upper middle area of your belly (epigastric pain)
- Nausea and vomiting
Most people have a quicker recovery and fewer problems from surgery through a laparoscope than with open surgery.
Before the Procedure
You may have the following tests done before your surgery:
- Blood tests (complete blood count, electrolytes, and kidney tests)
- Chest x-ray or electrocardiogram (ECG), for some people
- Ultrasound of the gallbladder
Tell your doctor or nurse:
- If you are or might be pregnant
- What medicines, vitamins, and other supplements you are taking, even ones you bought without a prescription
During the week before your surgery:
- You may be asked to stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), vitamin E, warfarin (Coumadin), and any other drugs that make it hard for your blood to clot.
- Ask your doctor which drugs you should still take on the day of your surgery.
- Prepare your home for after the surgery
On the day of your surgery:
- Follow your doctor's instructions about when to stop eating and drinking.
- Take the drugs your doctor told you to take with a small sip of water.
- Shower the night before or the morning of your surgery.
- Arrive at the hospital on time.
After the Procedure
If you do not have any problems, you will be able to go home when you are able to drink liquids easily and your pain can be treated with pain pills. Most people go home on the same day or the day after this surgery.
If there were problems during surgery, or if you have bleeding, a lot of pain, or nausea and vomiting, you may need to stay in the hospital longer.
Follow instructions for taking care of yourself at home.
Most people recover quickly and have good results from this procedure.
Cholecystectomy - laparoscopic
Blunt LM. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy. In: Cameron JL, Cameron AM, eds. Current Surgical Therapy. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014.
Jackson PG, Evans SRT. Biliary system. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 55.
Update Date 10/27/2014
Updated by: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, general surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.