John Pepen, MD, sat down to answer some of his patient's most frequently asked questions about gallbladder surgery. Watch our FAQ videos and read below to learn more.
What is gallbladder surgery?
Gallbladder surgery or cholecystectomy is a very common general surgery procedure in the United States. For most gallbladder conditions the definitive, curative treatment is the removal of the gallbladder.
What are the symptoms of gallstones?
Symptoms can vary between patients but typically include pain or discomfort in the upper part of the abdomen – usually in the center or right-hand side. This pain can be referred to the back or even the shoulder. Some patients will experience nausea and vomiting during a particularly strong “attack.” If a gallstone becomes lodged in the common bile duct, the pancreas and liver may become involved. Pancreatitis and jaundice may develop as a result. Both are concerning issues that need to be addressed immediately.
What causes gallstones?
Gallstones are caused by a variety of conditions. Middle-aged women, those suffering from obesity, those who lose weight quickly or yo-yo diet frequently and those who are chronically dehydrated all have a higher risk of developing gallstones. There may be a genetic component involved as well.
How is gallbladder disease diagnosed?
Beyond a comprehensive medical exam by a qualified physician or surgeon, ultrasound imaging is the best diagnostic tool for gallbladder issues including gallstones.
What are the options for treating gallbladder disease?
If the inflammation of the gallbladder can be managed with medication, antibiotics maybe the extent of treatment. Failing that, the only truly effective long-term option for treating gallbladder disease is removal of the organ.
Do I need my gallbladder?
The gallbladder does not perform any vital function in the body and therefore patients live a normal and healthy life when their gallbladder is removed.
Is gallbladder surgery safe?
Gallbladder surgery, when performed laparoscopically, is one of the safest general surgical procedures. The complication rate is extremely low in the hands of an experienced general surgeon.
Do I have to remove my gallbladder right away?
The short answer is no, however you risk certain complications by waiting when there is a clear indication for surgery. Gallstones do not go away and gallstone attacks typically get worse over time. Acute or chronic inflammation of the gallbladder not only causes problems with the organ itself but may create issues with neighboring organs such as the pancreas and liver. If left untreated, these issues can lead to an emergency.
How long does the surgery last?
An uneventful laparoscopic cholecystectomy or gallbladder removal requires about 30 to 45 minutes of operative time, one to two hours of preoperative preparation and approximately an hour or two of recovery time.
How long will I be in the hospital?
Laparoscopic or minimally invasive gallbladder removals are typically performed on an outpatient basis meaning you will leave the surgical facility on the same day as your surgery.
Do I have gallbladder cancer?
Gallstones and other gallbladder disease is not necessarily indicative of gallbladder cancer. Gallbladder cancer is a very rare condition. However, after surgery, we do send your gallbladder to pathology to ensure there is no malignancy.
What can I eat after gallbladder removal?
There are no dietary restrictions after surgery, however because of the anesthesia and narcotic pain medication, you may experience a lack of appetite for a few days.
Will I gain weight after my gallbladder is removed?
There is no solid evidence to suggest that the removal of a gallbladder alone causes weight re-gain. (Read our blog post on gaining weight after gallbladder surgery.)
When can I go back to work?
Most patients will be able to go back to work within 3 to 5 days after surgery. More strenuous activity should be avoided for a week or two after surgery.
When is follow-up?
You will visit with one of our surgeons to evaluate the progress of your recovery at approximately 2 weeks after surgery.
When do I need to call the office?
You will receive a postoperative packet that explains what you should expect and what is not normal. For any emergencies, you need to call 911 or visit your nearest emergency room immediately. For other non-emergency questions, our office is available to help.
Ready for the Next Step?
Are you a candidate for weight loss surgery? The first requirement for people interested in weight loss surgery is to watch our free, on-demand webinar. This webinar educates potential, qualified patients on the benefits and risks. Listen to Dr. Feteiha explain everything you need to know about bariatric surgery and whether it is the right choice for you.
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