This webpage will give you information about an open cholecystectomy. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.
What are gallstones?
Gallstones are ‘stones’ that form in the gallbladder (see figure 1).
Figure 1 - The gallbladder and surrounding structures.
They are quite common and can run in families. The likelihood of developing gallstones increases with age and in people who eat a diet rich in fat.
In some people, gallstones can cause severe symptoms with repeated attacks of abdominal pain being the most common.
What are the benefits of surgery?
You should be free of pain and able to eat a normal diet. Surgery should also prevent the serious complications that gallstones can cause.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
It is possible to dissolve the stones or even shatter them into small pieces but these techniques involve unpleasant drugs and side effects, have a high failure rate and the gallstones usually come back.
Antibiotics can be used to treat any infections of the gallbladder. A low-fat diet may help to prevent attacks of pain. However, these alternatives will not cure the condition.
What does the operation involve?
The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about an hour.
Your surgeon will make a cut in the upper part of your abdomen and free up the gallbladder duct (cystic duct) and artery. They will then separate the gallbladder from the liver, and remove it.
What complications can happen?
1. General Complications
- Infection in the surgical site (wound)
- Unsightly scarring
- Developing a hernia in the scar
- Blood clots
2. Specific complications of this operation
- Leaking of bile or stones
- Retained stones
- Persistent pain
- Inflammation in the abdomen
- Chest infection
- Bile duct injury
- Bowel injury
- Serious damage to the liver
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home after two to four days.
You should be able to return to work after about six weeks depending on the extent of surgery and your type of work.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
You should make a full recovery and be able to eat a normal diet.
Gallstones are a common problem. An operation to remove your gallbladder should result in you being free of pain and able to eat a normal diet. Surgery should also prevent the serious complications that gallstones can cause.
Author: Mr Simon Parsons DM FRCS (Gen. Surg.)
Illustrations: Hannah Ravenscroft RM
This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.