Gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ in the body that stores the fluid that helps digest food called bile. If your gallbladder is not functioning properly, it begins to form hard fragments which can be as small as a grain of rice or as big as a golf ball.
Also, it is important to note that gallstones don’t resolve on their own. Your doctor may decide to perform a cholecystectomy surgery (removal of your gallbladder), if they begin to hurt.
Types of Gallbladder Surgery
There are two major surgeries that doctors can use to remove your gallbladder. For both types of surgery, you’ll be given general anesthesia. These surgeries include:
Open surgery: This involves your surgeon making a 5-7inch incision on your belly to remove your gallbladder. You’ll need open surgery if you have a bleeding disorder.
Laparoscopic cholecystectomy: In this procedure, doctors make a keyhole opening in your belly. He makes four small cuts. He inserts a very thin, flexible tube that contains a light and a tiny video camera into your belly which can your surgeon examine your gallbladder properly before removal.
Why surgery for gallstones is important
For those whose gallstones aren’t causing symptoms, there’s no need for you to have surgery. However, if a stone goes into, or blocks, one of your bile ducts, this causes a “gallbladder attack.” Symptoms may include an intense pain in your belly that can last several hours.
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Untreated gallstones can lead to more severe health complications, like:
- Cholecystitis – an inflamed gallbladder
- Pancreatitis – an inflamed pancreas
- Cholangitis – inflamed bile ducts
Several tests would be conducted by your doctor before he decides to perform surgery on you. He’ll run several tests to check the effect your gallstones are having on your health. Tests might include:
- Blood test
- MRI HIDA (hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid) scan — a radioactive chemical is put into your body to create images of any blocked ducts
- Endoscopic ultrasonography — an imaging device is put into your mouth and down through your digestive tract so sound waves can create a detailed picture of your small intestine
Other treatments to try first before surgery
Before opting for surgery, you may be able to manage your symptoms for a short time by making changes to your diet such as cutting back on fatty foods. In most cases, dietary changes don’t help prevent gallbladder attacks.
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Your doctor can prescribe medications to dissolve the gallstones if your case does not require medication. However, this can take months or even years to work. And even if your gallstones do go away, there’s a chance they’ll reoccur.
Risks associated with Gallbladder Surgery
It is important to note that you can live comfortably without your gallbladder. This is because your liver can produce enough bile on its own. This will naturally find its way into your small intestine even if your gallbladder is removed. Gallbladder surgery is safe, but there are still some problems that can come up. These may include:
- Anesthesia problems
- Heart problems
- Bile leakage
- Damage to a bile duct
- Damage to your intestine, bowel, or blood vessels
- Deep vein thrombosis
Also, you can run the risk of “post-cholecystectomy syndrome” (PCS). This can occur if any gallstones are left in your bile ducts or bile happens to leak into your stomach. The symptoms of PCS are similar to those of gallstones. They include diarrhea, heartburn, and belly pain.
Recovery time after gallbladder surgery depends on the type of surgery you have.
If you have open surgery, you’ll need to remain in the hospital for a few days afterward. It may take 6 to 8 weeks for your body to heal.
On the other hand, laparoscopy is less painful and you’ll heal faster than when you have open surgery. Recovery time takes about 2 weeks. Most people who have it are able to go home from the hospital the same day.