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How Long Does Gallbladder Surgery Take?

Updated on March 6, 2014

Doctors recommend gallbladder surgery for people with gallbladder stones or other gallbladder conditions. The gallbladder is not a vital organ. Hence, under normal circumstances, the recovery period post-operation ranges from 7 to 10 days.

The gallbladder is a tiny gland of the digestive system which carries out the function of digesting fats and storing bile which is a digestive fluid secreted by the liver. In humans, the organ is located just under the liver.

Just like many other body organs, the gallbladder is also vulnerable to varied diseases and disorders like gallstones, cancer, bile blockage, or porcelain gallbladder. In such cases, a doctor may suggest the surgical removal of gallbladder as a treatment option. Gallbladder surgery or cholecystectomy is a fairly common surgical procedure which comes with minimal post-surgery risks.

Preparing for a gallbladder surgery

Before undergoing gallbladder surgery, the doctor may ask the patient to follow the below listed steps:

  • A prescription solution is given by the doctor. Patients need to drink it to clean the intestines.

  • Do not eat anything on the night before gallbladder surgery. You may take your medicines with water, but stop drinking and eating at least 4 hours before surgery.

  • Inform the doctor about all the supplements and medicines currently taken by you. You may continue taking the prescription drugs. However, the doctor may ask the patient to temporarily stop taking certain medications as they may pose a threat of bleeding.

Preparation for gallbladder surgery recovery: You may take all the steps necessary to aid the recovery process, such as:

  • Check with the doctor about the kind of surgical procedure that will be performed. In most cases, the patient can go home a few hours after the surgery. However, if the surgery involves making a big incision in the abdomen, then you may have to stay at the hospital for a few days. So prepare for a stay at the hospital by bringing personal items like toothbrush, etc and books to pass the time.

  • Get someone to drive you to and fro from the hospital.

Types of gallbladder surgery

Gallbladder surgery is carried out under general anesthesia. The surgery may be performed using an open or laparoscopic procedure.

Laparoscopic or minimally invasive gallbladder surgery

  • In laparoscopic gallbladder surgery, the doctor will make 4 tiny incisions in the abdomen. A tube attached with a small camera is inserted via any one of the incisions into the abdomen. The surgeon will then watch the images relayed by the camera on a monitor and insert special surgical tools through the remaining incisions to remove the gallbladder.

  • The bile duct will now be checked for anomalies via an ultrasound or other such imaging tests. In case gallstones or other abnormalities are observed, then they are removed as well. The incisions are then sutured and the patient is taken to a recovery room.

  • Laparoscopic gallbladder removal is performed in about 1 to 2 hours.

  • This surgery may not work for every patient. Sometimes, after starting with the laparoscopic method, the surgeon may deem it necessary to go for a bigger incision due to presence of scar tissue from older surgeries or complications.

Open or traditional gallbladder surgery

  • In open gallbladder surgery, the surgeon will make a six-inch incision into the right side of the abdomen under the ribs. The tissues and muscle are pulled apart so as to see the gallbladder and liver. The gallbladder is then removed, the incision is sutured, and the patient is taken to the recovery room.

  • This procedure also takes about 1 to 2 hours.

Gallbladder surgery recovery time

The patient is taken to a recovery area after the surgery. The anesthesia slowly starts to wear off. If it is a laparoscopic gallbladder surgery, then the patient can leave the hospital in 24 hours or a few more, while open surgery patients may need to stay at the hospital for 3 to 4 days. It is important to note that different people respond differently to different kinds of surgeries. Hence, gallbladder surgery recovery time varies from one person to another.

A few facts about gallbladder surgery recovery time are listed below:

  • Under normal conditions, most people recover from a laparoscopic surgery in 8 to 10 days.

  • The recovery time is somewhat longer with regards to open surgery. It is dependent on the healing of the incision/incisions.

  • The daily routine can usually be resumed after 2 weeks.

  • Rigorous exercising can commence after about a month, after the doctor has okayed it.

Some factors which can prolong the gallbladder surgery recovery time are as follows:

  • Any kind of surgery increases the risk to infections. If a patient experiences infection of the surgical wounds, then recovery time can get prolonged.

  • In rare cases, hemorrhage may need to be corrected via another surgery.

  • Occurrence of post-cholecystectomy syndrome or PCS which is characterized by indigestion, pain in the abdomen, jaundice, diarrhea, and fever. It gets better in some days. Consult a doctor if PCS persists

  • Injury to other internal organs during gallbladder removal surgery. Most often such injuries are corrected during the original surgery itself. This may however increase the recovery time.

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