Gallbladder Surgery (Cholecystectomy)

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The gallbladder

The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ attached to the underside of the liver, in the right side of the upper abdomen. It stores and concentrates bile, a fluid produced by the liver, which helps breakdown fats in food. When food is eaten, the gallbladder squeezes bile down attached bile ducts and into the small intestine.

Gallstones (cholelithiasis)

Gallstones within the gallbladder are common. They form when the chemical constituents of bile become unbalanced, and some components become solid. Whilst no treatment is usually recommended if the gallstones are not causing symptoms, in those who have symptoms, removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) is usually advised due to the likelihood of further symptoms and complications. Problems caused by gallstones include:

Biliary colic (pain)

often experienced as the rapid onset of steady, severe pain in the upper abdomen, but may be felt in the chest or upper back, typically after a fatty meal, and may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting
the pain usually resolves spontaneously within hours

Cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder)

this causes upper abdominal pain that tends to persist if not treated and may be associated with feeling unwell with a fever


if gallstones move out of the gallbladder, they may become lodged in the bile ducts, causing the drainage of bile to become blocked
this blockage may appear as yellowing of the skin and white part of the eyes (jaundice) and may be associated with pain and fever due to infection in the bile duct system (cholangitis)

Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)

this may be triggered by gallstones moving down the bile ducts, into which the pancreas also drains, and may result in severe illness

Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy

Removal of the gallbladder is usually the treatment for symptomatic gallstones. It is usually performed as laparosopic (“key-hole”) surgery through small incisions in the abdomen. Open surgery may be required in certain circumstances.
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