A cholecystectomy is the surgical procedure that involves removal of the gallbladder, and over half a million people a year have this procedure. The gallbladder collects bile, which is a fluid produced by the liver that aids in digestion. Sometimes gallstones form and block the flow of bile causing pain, which may require removal of the gallbladder. As with any surgery, side effects are possible, but are typically mild and temporary.
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Your gallbladder may need to be removed because of gallstones in your gallbladder (cholelithiasis), inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), gallstones in your bile duct (choledocholithiasis) or inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis).
Gallbladder removal is typically done laparoscopically, which means four small cuts will be made in your abdomen and the surgeon will perform the surgery through the cuts using special surgical tools and a tiny video camera. If this is not possible a traditional cholecystectomy will be done, in which the surgeon makes a six-inch incision in your abdomen and removes the gallbladder.
After surgery you may have fatigue and pain. Recovery time from a laparoscopic cholecystectomy takes about a week. Sometimes a complication involving injury to the bile duct may occur; this is the most common complication, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The most common side effects of gallbladder removal include impaired digestion, diarrhea, bloating, gas and constipation, according to Gallbladderattack.com. These symptoms may occur because the gallbladder can no longer regulate bile, so there may be too much or too little of it. Sometimes these symptoms can be long lasting and supplementing your diet with bile salts can help alleviate these symptoms.
Any surgery carries risks and removal of the gallbladder is no different. The Mayo Clinic lists some of the possible risks as bleeding, blood clots, bile leak, infection, injury to surrounding organs, pancreatitis and pneumonia. If you are in good general health, your risks are lower than if you are in poor health.