Laparoscopic gallbladder removal is a minimally invasive surgical procedure to remove the gallbladder. Bile from the liver is stored in the gallbladder before going into the intestine. When the gallbladder becomes inflamed or accumulates gallstones, it may need to be removed. The most common way of removing a gallbladder is laparoscopic surgery. Knowing a little bit about the procedure and the anatomy involved can be helpful in understanding the pros and cons of a laparoscopic procedure.
One advantage of laparoscopic gallbladder removal is that it involves several small incisions in the abdomen instead of one large one. Small instruments and a tiny camera are inserted into the abdomen. A surgeon uses these instruments to remove the gallbladder through one of the incisions. Rarely is the gallbladder removed through open surgery in which the abdomen is opened up and the gallbladder is removed.
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Recovery after laparoscopic gallbladder removal is considerably faster than after open surgery. Many patients go home the same day after laparoscopic gallbladder removal. Most patients are able to return to normal activities, including work, within a week or two. Patients also report less pain with a laparoscopic procedure versus open surgery.
There are risks associated with any medical procedure, including laparoscopic gallbladder removal. Some risks that are associated with any surgery include infection, bleeding, or problems associated with anesthesia. In a laparoscopic gall bladder removal, the surgeon may be forced to convert to an open surgery during the procedure. A laparoscopic procedure also may not be an option if a patient has scarring from a previous surgery or is obese.
Another risk associated with laparoscopy is injury to a bile duct. The common bile duct feeds bile from the gallbladder into the intestine. If the bile duct is injured or cut, it will cause long-term problems for the patient. This may even necessitate an eventual liver transplant.
Patients face another risk from gallstones. It can be discovered during surgery that a gallstone is stuck in a bile duct attached to the gallbladder. Sometimes these gallstones can be removed during the laparoscopy, or it may necessitate another procedure. In addition, gallstones can unintentionally come out of the gallbladder and fall into the abdomen as the gallbladder is being removed. All gallstones should be removed at the time of surgery, and this removal extends the surgery time, increasing the risk of complications.
There are few alternatives to surgery when gallstones are present. Medications are ineffective at stopping new gallstones from forming. Gallstones can’t be eliminated by a change in diet. Ultimately, without treatment, gallstones can lead to a life-threatening emergency if the bile ducts become blocked by a stone.