Anatomy and Gallbladder Surgery


The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ in the abdomen that produces, stores and releases bile as needed.  Bile is a fluid produced by the liver that helps digest fats in the small intestine.  If the bile in your gallbladder becomes chemically imbalanced, it can form into hardened particles that grow over time and eventually turn into gallstones (cholelithiasis).  Gallstones can then obstruct the flow of bile causing various symptoms.



When your gallbladder is not working correctly these symptoms may occur (especially after eating a fat containing meal):

  • Indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in the middle or the right upper abdomen
  • Infection (Cholecystitis)

Gallstones can be quite painful.  Simply, the presence of gallstones does not mean that you need surgery.  However, once they are symptomatic, if left untreated, they can lead to serious complications.  For example, if the stones move to nearby bile ducts, they can cause blockages that lead to dangerous conditions such as jaundice or pancreatitis (the inflammation of the pancreas).

Once gallstones have been identified either through ultrasound, CT scan or other test, surgical consultation is the best option to clarify whether or not the gallstones are the cause of patient’s symptoms.

Occasionally, a gallbladder can function improperly even if there are no gallstones.  This condition is called biliary dyskinesia and can be diagnosed using a HIDA scan to assess the function of your gallbladder.


Gallbladder Surgery

Our surgeons perform gallbladder surgery (cholecystectomy) laparoscopically which offers a less invasive approach to gallbladder removal.  Laparoscopic surgery also allows for a quicker recovery.

Commonly, a total of four incisions are made to facilitate removal of the gallbladder.  Single incision (SILS) techniques have been developed. Our surgeons at Suncoast Surgical Associates are familiar with this technique and would be happy to discuss this option with you if you are interested. Occasionally some dye is put into your common bile duct so a type of x-ray (cholangiogram) can be performed to see if other stones are still present and need be removed.

Gallbladder surgery is performed using general anesthesia, so you are asleep completely and unable to feel any pain.

Often, this can be performed as outpatient surgery if the gallbladder is not actively infected.


Preparing for Gallbladder Surgery

You will either have a phone or in-person interview with the hospital anesthesia team to discuss your procedure, notify you of medications you should stop or take the day of surgery and let you know what time you should come in for your surgery.  You will be asked to come in a few hours earlier than your schedule surgery time.

On the day of your surgery :

  • No eating or drinking after midnight the night before surgery
  • Take any drugs your doctor said you may take with a sip of water
  • Shower the night before or the morning of your surgery

After Gallbladder Surgery

Patients who undergo gallbladder surgery can often leave the hospital the same day as the surgery.  Immediately after your surgery, you will be taken to a recovery area where you can rest and begin taking pain medications.  Once you are feeling better and able to drink and eat, you may return home

At home, you may experience some abdominal cramping, fatigue and bruising around your incisions.  You can resume showering the day after surgery, but do not soak in a tub or swim in a pool for two weeks after surgery so that your incisions can completely heal.  It is recommended that you stay on a lower fat diet for a few weeks after surgery after which you can resume your regular diet without restrictions.

Be sure to walk and move around as much as possible.  Take your pain medication as your needed in order to do this.  If you are taking more than four pills per day, consider taking a stool softener to prevent constipation from the narcotics.

Do not drive while taking pain medications.

Generally you may return to work 5 to 10 days after surgery, discuss this with your surgeon and he will advise you when to return to work.

Once you are feeling like yourself again, it is important to stay active and eat nutritious, high fiber foods.  Talk to your doctor about improving your overall health through changes in diet and exercise.