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Removal of the Gallbladder

written by: Harry Sylvester • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 8/18/2010

The gallbladder is essential to store bile made in the liver and help digest fat as well. However, gallbladder removal is possible if gallstones exist and inflammation of the gallbladder occurs. Learn about how this surgical procedure is performed along with risks and complications that might occur.

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    The Gallbladder and its Function

    Gallbladder The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ situated behind the liver on the right section of the rib cage. Its main function is to concentrate and accumulate a digestive liquid (bile) made in the liver. The gallbladder releases bile after you consume high-fat food to help digest fat. Bile is a bitter-tasting and yellowish fluid containing cholesterol, acids, calcium, bilirubin, and other waste materials. Bile moves through bile ducts (narrow tubular channels) to the small intestine. Click on image to enlarge.

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    Why is the Gallbladder Removed?

    Despite being important to concentrate and release bile, your physician may recommend gallbladder removal if you experience these conditions:

    Gallstones are Present

    Gallstones are solid particles containing cholesterol and bile salts in the gallbladder. They might be small as a grain of sand or big as a golf ball. Two common kinds of gallstones include cholesterol stones that are present if you have too much cholesterol in the bile and pigment stones that exist if you have excessive bilirubin in the bile. You must be alert when you feel rapidly intensifying pain in the center or the upper right part of your stomach since it might be an early warning of gallstones.

    The Gallbladder is Inflamed (Cholecystitis)

    If inflammation occurs, the surgical procedure is suggested. Gallstones can hamper bile ducts leading to an accumulation of bile. It will result in inflammation. Injury, infection, and tumors are other causes of cholecystitis. This condition is very hazardous if untreated because it can rip your gallbladder and infect other parts of your body. Symptoms include abdominal pain, shoulder pain, vomiting, nausea, and fever.

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    Who Performs the Procedure?

    A physician who specializes in general surgery can perform this procedure.

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    How the Surgical Procedure is Performed

    The surgical procedure is known as cholecystectomy in which the gallbladder and gallstones are removed together. The most common procedure is laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

    During this laparoscopic procedure, general anesthesia is applied. Then, the surgeon inserts a laparascope (tiny and thin telescope connected with a special camera) into your body through a small incision made below your navel. It will enable the surgeon to scrutinize your internal organs, monitoring them through a television screen.

    He or she inserts other instruments into three other small incisions made in the right part of your abdomen. Separating the gallbladder from its attachments is performed. The surgeon will remove it successfully and stitch the small incisions.

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    Risks and Complications

    Risks and complication that can occur after the surgery include:

    • Hemorrhage

    • Fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit

    • Pneumonia

    • Heart problems

    • Blood clots

    • Infection

    • Small intestinal injury

    • Inability to eat or drink liquids

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    Follow-up Care

    After gallbladder removal, you need to stay overnight in the hospital and can normally go home the next day. Most people can return to their regular activity within one week. The recovery period is progressive. If you are connected with administrative capacity, you can get back to work faster within a few days. However, if you are involved in physical work, it can take longer.

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    References

    eMedicineHealth.com: Gallstones - http://www.emedicinehealth.com/gallstones/article_em.htm

    Netdoctor.co.uk: Gallbladder Disease - http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/diseases/facts/gallbladderdisease.htm

    MayoClinic.com: Cholecystitis - http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cholecystitis/DS01153

    Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons: Laparoscopic Gall Bladder Removal - http://www.sages.org/publication/id/PI11/

    Encyclopedia of Surgery: Gallbladder Removal - http://www.surgeryencyclopedia.com/Fi-La/Gallstone-Removal.html

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    Photo Credit

    Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (NLM).

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    Disclaimer

    Please read this disclaimer regarding the information contained within this article.