Small, hard deposits can form in the gallbladder. They are called gallstones, and their formation is not uncommon. However, if they are causing severe pain or other problems, the gallbladder may need to be removed. Gallstones may get into the bile duct, which connects the gallbladder with the intestines. This can cause medical problems. Gallstones can have many causes, including genetics, weight, childbirth or a range of other issues. They can cause indigestion, sharp pain in the abdomen, nausea, vomiting, fever and jaundiced skin.
Ultrasound is used to detect gallstones. There is no established method for preventing gallstones, so in some cases, the gallbladder must be removed. This is a common procedure. It involves using very small, and specialised instruments to make a number of very small and precise incisions.
The procedure can often be carried out with a minimally invasive laparoscopic technique. This requires a shorter recovery period, a minimal hospital stay, and a quick return to regular activities. Ordinary activity can usually be resumed after around one week. There may be some pain in the days immediately after the procedure, but it should fade quickly. Painkillers can also be used to manage any pain in most cases, although patients should consult with their doctors about this.
In some cases, the more invasive open surgery technique is required due to the nature of the gallstones or the patient’s condition. While this method is not problematic, it does require a longer recovery period of around four to six weeks. Your doctor may prescribe painkillers for the recovery period, but this is not usually necessary. Contact your medical team if you have severe pain or any signs of infection during recovery.
Cholecystectomy is generally performed under general anaesthesia. It usually requires three or four incisions. While there will be some marks after the procedure, these will fade in the months after surgery. The surgeon can perform the procedure manually or with robotic assistance depending on their preference and experience.
In preparation for surgery, you may need to pause medications such as blood thinners. Your doctor will discuss this with you. It is important to disclose any medications you are using during initial consultations. Your surgeon will also check for gallstones in the bile duct, which may require additional work during or subsequent to the procedure.
Surgery may not be an option if you have previously had surgery in your upper abdomen or due to other severe medical conditions. Your surgeon will discuss any potential issues during consultation.
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