If natural methods for gallstone removal aren’t working, your physician may advise that you undergo one of these three surgical procedures.
Also called keyhole surgery, a laparoscopic cholecystectomy involves the surgeon making three to four small cuts in the abdomen. Take note that this is harmless and allows the surgeon to easily view the organs. Single-Incision Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy is a newer type of keyhole surgery that's used to remove the gallbladder and gallstones.1
Also called keyhole surgery, a laparoscopic cholecystectomy involves the surgeon making three to four small cuts in the abdomen. The smaller cuts measure 1 centimeter or less, each, and are located on the right side of the abdomen, while the large cut measures 2 to 3 centimeters and is located near the belly button.2
After making the cuts, the abdomen is temporarily inflated using carbon dioxide gas. Take note that this is harmless and allows the surgeon to easily view the organs. A long thin telescope with a tiny light and a video camera at the end, called a laparoscope, is inserted through one of the cuts, so the surgeon can view the operation through a video monitor.
Using special surgical instruments, the surgeon removes the gallbladder. If gallstones are in the bile duct, an X-ray or ultrasound scan of the bile duct can be taken during the operation. In some cases, these stones may be removed by the surgeon.
Once the gallbladder is removed, abdominal gas escapes via the laparoscope, and the cuts are closed with dissolvable stitches and covered with dressings. A typical laparoscopic cholecystectomy is performed under a general anesthetic, enabling the patient to be asleep during the procedure and not feel any pain.
This outpatient procedure can be done in 60 to 90 minutes, and full recovery can take up to 10 days. However, not everyone can undergo a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. The following groups of people are not recommended for this surgical procedure:
• Women in their third trimester of pregnancy
• People who are extremely overweight
• People who have an unusual gallbladder or bile duct structure that makes a keyhole procedure difficult and potentially dangerous
Single-Incision Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy
This is a newer type of keyhole surgery that’s used to remove the gallbladder and gallstones.3 It’s similar to the laparoscopic cholecystectomy mentioned earlier, although this time, the surgeon will be making only one small cut, producing a barely visible scar.4 Since this type of procedure is not carried out as often as a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, there are still some uncertainties about it. Furthermore, access to this surgery is limited because it needs to be performed by an experienced surgeon with specialist training.5
Open CholecystectomyPeople who aren’t recommended for a laparoscopic cholecystectomy may be advised to undergo an open cholecystectomy. In this procedure, the surgeon makes a 10- to 15-centimeter (or 4- to 6-inch) incision in the abdomen underneath the ribs so the gallbladder can be removed.6
An open cholecystectomy is also done under a general anesthetic, and this procedure is said to be just as effective as laparoscopic surgery. However, the recovery time for an open cholecystectomy is longer, and it causes visible scarring. Patients who undergo this procedure might have to stay in the hospital for up to five days, and full recovery may take six weeks.