Most gallbladder surgery today is done using a minimally invasive technique called laparoscopy which requires only small incisions.* A slim fiber optic device called a laparoscope allows the surgeon to view and perform the procedure inside the abdomen.
*Note: on occasion, it is better for a patient to have open surgery; your surgeon will advise you if this is the case.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How long before I can go back to work?
A: Most people can go home from the hospital the same day as the surgery and return to work within 5-10 days.
Q: Will the surgery leave a big scar?
A: One of the advantages of laparoscopy is that small incisions are used, which not only leads to less scarring but also generally allows for less pain and quicker recovery.
Q: Does laparoscopy use lasers?
A: No lasers are used. A laparoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument that has a light and a camera lens which allows the surgeon to see inside the abdomen on a video screen.
Q: Will I be awake or asleep during the surgery?
A: General anesthesia is generally used for laparoscopic surgery, so you will be asleep.
Preparing for the Surgery
Once the decision is made for surgery, your MSA surgeon will give you a thorough explanation of the procedure and help you plan and prepare for it. We will coordinate with you to schedule your surgery at either your local hospital or a surgery center and we will give you specific instructions for the days before the surgery including:
- When to stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.
- When and if to stop taking other medications, supplements or herbs —it is very important that you let your surgeon know all that you are taking, including over-the-counter products.
- What to do if you are taking blood thinners such as Plavix, Ticlid or Coumadin (warfarin).
- Arrange for an adult friend or family member to drive you home after the procedure—be sure to confirm with your surgeon the estimated time that the surgery will take.
- Dietary restrictions on the day/night before the surgery.
Risks and Complications
While laparoscopic gallbladder surgery is safe, it does have some risks:
- Blood clots in legs
- Injury to other nearby organs
- Bile leaks
- Lingering diarrhea
On the Day of the Surgery
Be sure that you have arranged for an adult friend or family member to drive you home and that they know when to arrive at the hospital or surgery center.
When the surgery is completed, you will rest in a recovery area and likely encouraged to move around to prevent blood clots. You may require special boots or other measures to prevent blood clots. You may experience some pain or discomfort in your shoulder, and you may be given medication to relieve the discomfort. Within a few hours, you should be feeling well enough to be driven home.
Recovering and Managing Pain
It is common to feel tired, suffer some bruising near the incisions and have abdominal cramping. These are normal after effects which diminish over time. We will give you some instructions and advice for your recovery, including:
- How to care for your dressing
- When you can bathe
- Gradually resuming your normal diet
- Movement, exercise, exertion
- When to have follow up appointments
Note: On rare occasions, the surgeon may determine at the onset of surgery that open surgery is better or safer. In this case, the main difference is that the incisions are larger and the hospital stay and recovery time is longer.
If you have recently undergone laparoscopic gallbladder surgery, call your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Bleeding or draining at an incision or extreme redness
- Fever over 101 degrees F
- Shortness of breath or chest pain
- Sharp or increasing pain
- Nausea or vomiting lasting more than 12 hours
- Swelling or pain in your calf
- Symptoms of jaundice such as yellowing of skin or whites of eyes, dark urine or light-colored stools
- Prolonged diarrhea