JOSE ERBELLA, M.D., FACS
General, Oncologic & Minimally Invasive Surgeries
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CHOLECYSTECTOMY IS GALLBLADDER SURGERY
What is the gallbladder?
The gallbladder is a small organ that stores bile made by the liver until it is used by the body to digest fat. Although the gallbladder is used to store bile, it is not necessary for healthy living. If a gallbladder is removed, bile will simply pass directly from the liver into the small intestine. Many of my family members have had to have their gallbladders removed and gallbladder surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed in the U.S.
What are gallstones?
In some cases, the bile in the gallbladder can crystallize before it is released into the digestive system. This produces gallstones, hardened pieces of bile that can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. Gallstones can block the ducts where bile moves from the gallbladder to the small intestine, which can result in infection, inflammation and severe pain.
Most people who have gallstones never develop symptoms and will not require treatment. However, some people can experience severe pain or acute infections of the gallbladder or pancreas. People who experience symptoms of gallstones should be treated with gallbladder surgery.
Some people suffer from gallbladder disease without gallstones. Sometimes we have to perform several tests to figure this out before deciding on surgery. These people can end up having the same surgery that is done for gallstones.
In most cases, I treat gallstones and gallbladder disease by performing a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. This is a minimally-invasive surgical procedure that removes the entire gallbladder, an organ that is not necessary for normal function. During laparoscopic gallbladder surgery, a few small incisions are made in the abdomen and a lighted video camera and specialized surgical instruments are inserted. Using these specialized tools, the gallbladder can be removed through one of the small incisions.
Basic diagram of the gallbladder anatomy. The gallbladder lives under the liver near the right side of our rib cage.
Photo of a gallbladder filled with stones.
Gallbladder surgery is typically done using general anesthesia and lasts about 30 to 60 minutes. My patients usually go home the same day and can return to normal activities several weeks after surgery. Most patients take at least one week off work.