What is a gallbladder?
A gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ below the liver that stores bile; bile, a liquid produced by the liver, is essential for the small interesting to break down and digest fats.
How does not having a gallbladder affect you?
While the gallbladder aids digestion, living without a gallbladder does not change your quality of life. There are typically no long-term effects to worry about after surgery. Though, you may need to make minor changes to your diet.
What is gallbladder surgery?
The medical term for gallbladder surgery is cholecystectomy (KOL-i-si-STEK-tuh-mee). Broken down, cholecystectomy means:
Chole = bile, Greek
Cysits = bladder, Latin
Ectomy = surgical removal, Greek
There are two primary methods for gallbladder removal: laparoscopic and open cholecystectomy.
GALLBLADDER REMOVAL AND POST-OP SURGICAL STAY
A traditional open cholecystectomy procedure typically requires two to three days of post-operative hospital stay. This invasive, open procedure requires the surgeon to make a six-inch incision in the abdomen, moving the surrounding muscle and tissue to remove the gallbladder.
Your doctor may insert one or more drains into the incision to allow drainage of fluids or pus. They will likely remove the drains after a couple of days.
In comparison, a laparoscopic procedure is much less invasive. The surgeon makes four small incisions in the abdomen instead of one long cut. Then, the surgeon uses a small video camera to visualize the gallbladder during the procedure. This less invasive approach often equals no hospital stay for most patients—meaning you can recover at home.
Gallbladder Removal Cost
Depending on your health insurance, laparoscopic gallbladder surgery can cost more than open surgery. The best way to determine the cost of the procedure is to consult your surgeon and discuss the best options.
Without insurance, gallbladder removal surgery can cost between $10,000 and $55,000. However, we gladly offer uninsured patients affordable payment options and financial assistance.
After Gallbladder Surgery
Depending on the type of removal surgery, you may be able to go home the same day. In that case, you should have someone drive you home and stay with you for at least 24 hours. The anesthetic may not wear off until a day later.
Immediately following the surgery, you will likely have swollen and bruised wounds. The pain should improve in a few days, and you may take prescribed medications to reduce it.
You will need to properly care for your surgical wounds. Your doctor will provide instructions on how frequently you should change the bandages and how long you should keep them on.
If you have dissolvable stitches, they will disappear on their own in about two weeks. For non-dissolvable stitches, you will need an appointment for a nurse to remove them after 7 to 10 days.
At first, the scars at the incision site will be red and stand out. However, they will fade over time with proper care.
Post-surgical pain is a significant concern for many cholecystectomy patients. Even though every surgical procedure has some pain, the discomfort with gallbladder removal (especially when done laparoscopically) is typically minimal. The doctor may prescribe a pain medication or recommend that you take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Some patients also experience shoulder pain following laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery. This temporary discomfort comes from gas left in your abdomen during surgery.
Along with incision and shoulder pain, you may feel throat discomfort. This pain occurs because general anesthesia used during surgery requires a breathing tube. The placement and removal of the tube may irritate your throat in the day or days following the procedure.
Severe pain and cramping are not normal following laparoscopic cholecystectomy. If you experience these symptoms, call your doctor immediately.
RETURNING TO ACTIVITY AFTER GALLBLADDER REMOVAL
How soon can you resume your everyday activities after surgery? The answer to this question depends on your normal routine, overall health, and body’s reaction to the surgery. Don’t expect to resume a strenuous gym routine or return to a manual labor job immediately after your operation.
Typically, open cholecystectomy takes 4-6 weeks to recover, while laparoscopic surgery takes about 1-2 weeks to recover.
Even though laparoscopic surgery provides patients with a shorter healing time, you will still need to take it easy for several days after the procedure. Avoid heavy lifting and physical activity for the first week or two following your surgical discharge.
It’s possible, in some cases, to return to work or school during the first few weeks of your recovery period—especially if you sit at a desk or have a sedentary job. Your doctor will advise you when you can return to other activities, such as exercising or engaging in physically demanding tasks.
Again, this depends on your physical state and how your body reacts to the procedure. The doctor may want you to rest until your post-op follow-up visit. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, it may take up to six weeks for you to fully recover from the surgery.
EATING AFTER SURGERY
If you have had your gallbladder removed, you may be wondering about foods you can and cannot eat. Here are some tips for returning to your normal diet after surgery.
Start by gradually adding small amounts of low-fat foods to your diet. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources such as chicken or fish.
Avoid high-fat foods, fried foods, and foods high in sugar. After surgery, your fat calories should be no more than 30% of your diet. Instead, slowly incorporate high-fiber foods as you heal.
It may take a while for your stomach to adjust to eating solid foods again. Be patient with yourself and take it slow. If you experience any discomfort or pain, talk to your doctor.
A long-term diet after gallbladder removal should include lower-fat foods and high-fiber foods. For example, continue to eat plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
General anesthesia and discomfort from a breathing tube may cause post-operative nausea. Some patients also experience vomiting. If the vomiting is severe, accompanied by other symptoms (such as abdominal pain or fever), or causes discomfort, contact your surgeon immediately. The doctor may need to evaluate you for post-op complications or may need to prescribe an anti-nausea medication.
Loose stool is another post-surgical symptom to expect. These loose bowel movements may last four to eight weeks and typically resolve without additional treatment.
WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR OR 911
Seek immediate, emergency care and call 911 if you:
- lose consciousness or pass out
- have difficulty breathing or are short of breath
Call your doctor if you have:
- your original symptoms from before surgery
- a high fever
- nausea and cannot drink fluids
- worsening or severe pain, even with medications
- discharge, redness, warmth, or increasing swelling from the wound
- red streaks around the incision
- bright red blood soaking through the bandage
- loose stitches or your incision opens
- jaundice, or yellowing skin or eyes
- dark urine or whiteish stools, or cannot pass stools or gas
- signs of a potential blood clot
These could be signs of an infection or a gallbladder surgery complication
How do I know if I need gallbladder removal surgery?
If you have large, painful gallstones, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove your gallbladder.
Gallstones form when there is an imbalance in the substances that create bile in your liver, and they are typically made of the bile byproducts cholesterol or bilirubin. The bile byproducts form small, pebble-like deposits that build up in your gallbladder—hence, the name gallstones.
Most of the time, gallstones are too small for people to feel and notice them. However, if the gallstones become larger or block bile ducts, they can cause severe pain and other symptoms:
- Sudden and intense abdominal pain near the gallbladder (upper right of the abdomen)
- Pain between the shoulder blades or right shoulder
- Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
- Nausea and vomiting
- High fever and chills
Gallstone Risk Factors
Like most medical conditions, some factors may increase your risk of painful gallstones. Some who have a higher risk of needing gallbladder surgery include:
- Pregnant women
- Overweight or obese people
- Those with a high-fat, high-cholesterol, and low-fiber diet
- Those with a family history of gallstones
- Those with liver disease
SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION FOR GALLBLADDER REMOVAL IN TENNESSEE
Are you worried you may have gallstones or be at high risk? Are you considering surgical removal of your gallbladder? Contact The Surgical Clinic for more information on this common procedure. Visit our locations page to learn about a clinic near you that benefits from board-certified providers with years of experience.
General surgeons in Greater Nashville
Dr. Suhail Allos
Dr. John Boskind
Dr. Rachel Bryant
St. Thomas West
Dr. Mark Cooper
Dr. Patrick Davis
Dr. Alex Fruin
Dr. Andrew Garrett
Dr. Mark Hinson
Dr. George Lynch
Dr. Clinton Marlar
Dr. James McDowell
Dr. Willie Melvin
Dr. Chad Moss
Dr. William Polk
Dr. Davidson Oxley
Dr. Drew Reynolds
St. Thomas West
Dr. Joshua Taylor
Dr. Tyson Thomas
St. Thomas West
Dr. John Valentine
Dr. Tyler Watson
Dr. Patrick Wolf
St. Thomas West