Treatment & Surgery

Is gallbladder removal right for you?

Not everyone who suffers from gallstones requires surgery to remove the gallbladder. If the gallstones do not cause pain or other symptoms, surgery is most likely unnecessary. It is rare that your doctor will recommend surgery if you are not experiencing symptoms of your gallstones.

Even if you are experiencing symptoms, you and your doctor may determine that watchful waiting is best as the first course of treatment. If symptoms resolve on their own, and you do not have another attack, gallbladder surgery may not be necessary. Watchful waiting may be the best choice for you if:

  • Your pain is mild. In cases of severe pain, surgery may be recommended to prevent future attacks and complications.
  • You do not have complications from your gallstones.
  • You are not at high risk for future problems or complications from gallstones.

Gallstones can cause moderate to severe pain and problems in the gallbladder and the entire biliary system, including the pancreas. They are often responsible for very painful and potentially serious inflammation of the gallbladder called acute cholecystitis. They may also cause inflammation of the pancreas known as pancreatitis.  When an operation is required for gallstones, the gallbladder and gallstones are usually removed at the same time—this is called cholecystectomy. Although you can have surgery to only remove the gallstones, this is the exact same laparoscopic procedure, and gallstones do come back once you have them. Therefore, it is recommended to remove the gallbladder and the gallstones together at the same time to eliminate the symptoms from occurring again thereby reducing the need for further surgery in the future.

If surgery is recommended by your physician, the gallbladder may be removed in one of two ways:

  • Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy
    More than 90 percent of gallbladder surgeries are performed by the laparoscopic method making this the method of choice provided the patient meets the criteria. The laparoscopic method is minimally invasive and generally requires a shorter recovery time than an open cholecystectomy.

    The surgery is performed under general anesthesia. Between one and four tiny incisions are made in the abdomen. A laparoscope (small camera) is inserted to help the surgeon visualize the inside of the abdomen during surgery. Images from the cameras are displayed on a TV monitor to guide the surgeon during the procedure. The gallbladder is removed through one of the incisions. The incisions are sutured closed at the end of the surgery. The procedure usually takes 20 to 40 minutes.

    The laparoscopic method is utilized most frequently as it is considered less invasive and typically requires a shorter recovery time. Your doctor will evaluate your case on an individual basis and make a decision on what procedure is best for you.

    Once the gallbladder has been removed, you likely will not experience any more symptoms, however, in a few cases, additional surgery may be necessary to address persistent symptoms.

  • Open Cholecystectomy
    Less commonly used to remove the gallbladder, an open cholecystectomy involves one, three to five inch incision made in the upper right-hand side of the abdomen. The gallbladder is located and removed through the incision.
  • Your doctor will assess your symptoms and make a recommendation on the best course of treatment for you.

    Learn more about gallbladder ​recovery ​by selecting below. Or schedule your appointment today and talk to an expert in gallbladder surgery.