The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped pouch in the upper-right part of your abdomen (tummy). Its purpose is to store bile, which is the digestive fluid manufactured by the liver that helps to break down fatty foods.
Bile is made from a mixture of bile salts, cholesterol and waste products.
When these substances are out of balance, small, hard stones called gallstones can form in the gallbladder causing discomfort and pain.
For some people, gallstones can either become lodged in the ducts of the gallbladder or move out into other parts of the body.
This can cause irritation and inflammation of the gallbladder and a range of symptoms which may include:
- Sudden intense pain in the abdomen
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes)
- Sickness and a feeling of needing to be sick
There are several non-surgical ways to break down gallstones, but they are very ineffective and are rarely a viable option.
For most people with painful gallstones it is recommended that they have gallbladder surgery to remove the gallstones.
What Happens During Gallbladder Removal Surgery?
At Kingsbridge Private Hospital in Belfast we offer two types of gallbladder removal surgery.
Laparoscopic (Keyhole) Cholecystectomy
This is the most common type of gall bladder operation. It involves using a tiny camera and surgical instruments that are inserted through small cuts (incisions) in your abdomen.
Recovery time for this type of surgery is greatly reduced compared to open surgery.
In open cholecystectomy the gallbladder removal is through one large incision in your abdomen.
This technique is called open surgery. It is a more invasive gall bladder operation than keyhole surgery. You will need to be in hospital for longer and it will take longer to recover.
Open surgery is usually only used if there are medical reasons why laparoscopic cholecystectomy cannot be performed safely, or if your surgeon decides that it would be safer to switch to open surgery during the procedure.
Both techniques are usually carried out under a general anaesthetic, so you will be asleep during the gall bladder operation and will feel no pain.
Recovering From Gallbladder Removal Surgery
It doesn’t take long to recover from laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Most people will be able to leave Kingsbridge Private Hospital on the same day or the next morning.
You should be able to get back to normal activities within two weeks and it should be safe to do strenuous exercise after a month.
It takes much longer to recover from an open cholecystectomy. It may be three to five days before you can leave hospital and it could be six weeks before you are feeling back to normal.
Both laparoscopic and open cholecystectomies are generally safe procedures with a low risk of complications. Your consultant will discuss any concerns you have at your appointment at Kingsbridge Private Hospital in Belfast.
The most common complication is infection at the site of the incision. This happens in around 1 in 15 cases.
After Your Gall Bladder Operation
You can lead a perfectly normal life without having a gallbladder. It is not an essential organ in the body and the liver will still produce bile to digest food.
Some people however may have symptoms of bloating and diarrhoea after eating fatty or spicy food. If certain foods do trigger symptoms, you may wish to avoid them in the future.
Some people may also experience pain and indigestion as a result of a stone being left inside a bile duct. This will require further surgery to remove the stone.
At Kingsbridge Private Hospital our experienced team of experts will be able to give you advice and support before deciding to have surgery. They will also discuss any concerns you have about surgery or questions about recovery following surgery.