Your gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped pouch in the upper right part of your abdomen, which stores bile (a digestive fluid that helps to break down fatty food) produced by the liver. Bile is carried from your gallbladder to your intestine through a tube called the bile duct.
Gallstones (small, hard stones) can develop if the bile gets too concentrated. These can block the bile duct, resulting in abdominal pain, nausea and fever. If these symptoms persist, removal of the gallbladder is often required.
If you've been experiencing persistent abdominal pain, nausea and fever because of a blocked bile duct, your doctor may have decided that your symptoms require the removal of your gallbladder. The body can function well without a gallbladder. Gallbladder removal is one of the most common operations, with more than 60,000 performed each year according to clinical sources.
If you decide to have your procedure with us, you will be looked after by an experienced multi-disciplinary care team.
Our patients are at the heart of what we do and we want you to be in control of your care. To us, that means you can choose the consultant you want to see, and when you want. They'll be with you every step of the way.
All of our consultants are of the highest calibre and benefit from working in our modern, well-equipped hospitals.
Our consultants have high standards to meet, often holding specialist NHS posts and delivering expertise in complex sub-speciality surgeries. Many of our consultants have international reputations for their research in their specialised field.
You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.
We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.
We've tried to make your experience with us as easy and relaxed as possible.
For more information on visiting hours, our food, what to pack if you're staying with us, parking and all those other important practicalities, please visit our patient information pages.
Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.
We understand that having surgery can potentially be a time of anxiety and worry. Our experienced and caring medical staff will be there for you, holding your hand, every step of the way.
A gallbladder operation is usually done using keyhole surgery, a procedure also known as laparoscopic cholecystectomy. This means your surgeon can remove your gallbladder without having to make a large cut on your abdomen. Some people may need open surgery, however, and your surgeon will explain which method is most suitable for you.
The operation is done under a general anaesthetic, which means you'll be asleep during the procedure.
During the operation, your surgeon will make two or three small cuts (about five to ten mm long) on the skin above, or just below, your navel. Using a hollow needle, passed through or near your navel, carbon dioxide gas is pumped into the abdomen. This creates more room for your surgeon to work in and makes it easier to see the internal organs.
The laparoscope (a long, thin telescope with a light and camera lens at the tip) is then passed through one of the cuts. Your surgeon will examine the internal organs by looking directly through the laparoscope, or at pictures it sends to a video screen. Specially adapted surgical instruments are passed through the other cuts to help move the internal structures so that your surgeon can see around them and to cut and remove the gall bladder.
X-ray pictures may be taken to look at the bile duct during the operation, so that your surgeon can find out if any gallstones are blocking the bile duct. Afterwards, the instruments are removed and the gas is allowed to escape through the laparoscope. The skin cuts are closed with dissolvable stitches and covered with a dressing.
The operation takes between 60 and 90 minutes.
Keyhole surgery is usually carried out as a day case operation, but some patients may need to stay overnight in hospital.
After this, you will be taken to your room or comfortable area where you can rest and recuperate until we feel you're ready to go home.
Following the operation, you are likely to feel some pain in the abdomen as well as “referred pain” in the tips of your shoulders - caused by the gas used to inflate the abdomen. This usually disappears within 48 hours or so. If you need them, continue taking painkillers as advised by the hospital.
We will provide you with a supply of all the medicines your consultant feels you need to take home with you after you've left hospital, up to 14 days. This may be at an additional cost to some patients.
Once you're ready to be discharged from hospital, you'll need to arrange a taxi, friend or family member to take you home as you won't be able to drive.
You shouldn't drive until you feel you could do an emergency stop without discomfort. If you are in any doubt about driving, please contact your motor insurer so that you are aware of their recommendations, and always follow your surgeon's advice.
Dissolvable stitches will disappear on their own in seven to ten days. Any scarring should fade with time. Follow your surgeon's advice about resuming your usual activities, diet and returning to work.
Even after you've left hospital, we're still looking after you every step of the way. After having your gallbladder removed, typically our consultants will want to see you four to six weeks after your procedure to see how you are doing.
Like all medical treatments, gall bladder removal carries the risk of complications but most people are unaffected. Specific complications of this procedure include accidental damage to other organs in the abdomen, such as the bile duct, bowel, bladder, liver or major blood vessels, requiring further surgery to repair the damage. If you experience any of these symptoms - bleeding, continuing pain, breathlessness or calf pain or continuing abdominal pain, bloating, wind and diarrhoea – call us straight away as these may require further investigation and treatment.
Your consultant will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure and how they apply to you.
If you have any questions or concerns about your recovery, we're ready to help.
A fixed price for this treatment may be available on enquiry and following an initial consultation.
We are committed to delivering excellent individual care and customer service across our network of hospitals, clinics and specialist care centres around the UK. Our dedicated and highly trained team aim to achieve consistently excellent results. For us it's more than just treating patients, it's about looking after people.
The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.
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