Cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of the gallbladder, a small organ located under the liver. The gallbladder is responsible for collecting and releasing bile, a fluid produced by the liver that is used in the digestion of food.

Cholecystectomy is usually performed when the gallbladder is not functioning properly, or if painful gallstones are present.

Types of Cholecystectomy

Cholecystectomy can be performed as either an open procedure or laparoscopically; both types require general anesthesia.

Open Method

The open procedure is usually performed on a patient who has had previous abdominal surgery, or has a preexisting medical condition that makes the laparoscopic method unsuitable. An incision is made in the upper portion of the abdomen to remove the gallbladder. A drain may be inserted through the incision to aid in the removal of fluids.

Laparoscopic Method

The laparoscopic method is a minimally invasive procedure that results in less scarring, less pain, a shorter hospital stay and a speedier recovery than open surgery. Several small incisions are made in the abdomen. The abdominal cavity is inflated with carbon dioxide so that the gallbladder and the organs surrounding it can be seen. The laparoscope and surgical instruments are inserted through the small incisions, and the gallbladder is removed.

In both types of surgery, the bile duct is examined to determine if stones are present. If so, they are removed.

Recovery from Cholecystectomy

After cholecystectomy, the patient is transferred to a recovery room for observation. A patient who has had laparoscopic cholecystectomy may be able to return home the same day. Full recovery from laparoscopic cholecystectomy takes about a week. A patient who has had an open cholecystectomy typically spends a few days in the hospital, and fully recovers in 4 to 6 weeks.

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