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Gallbladder removal

Gallbladder surgery

Gallbladder removal surgery is an operation to remove your gallbladder. It is also known as a cholecystectomy (lap chole when performed laparoscopically) and is a commonly performed procedure. The main reason for removal of the gallbladder is due to significant pain caused by the gall stones.

For most patients this pain presents as upper abdominal pain particularly in the upper right hand corner of the abdomen and usually occurs after eating rich food. The pain can sometimes be associated with nausea or pain radiating to the back of the shoulder blades. In more severe attacks, this can also be associated with inflammation of the gallbladder causing a fever and pain lasting longer than two hours.

Gallstones are a result of the patient producing a bile from the liver that has a strong concentration of bile and cholesterol which then forms the stones. They are also the result high levels of cholesterol inside the gallbladder or high levels of waste produce called bilirubin inside the gallbladder.

Before surgery patients will undergo an assessment in the hospital. The may include blood tests and a general health check to make sure that the patient is fit enough for surgery. Patients will be advised about what they can do to reduce their risk of complications following surgery, this may include losing weight and stopping smoking.

Surgery is usually laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery. This procedure involves a small incision  of around 2-3 cm made near the tummy button and two to three smaller incisions of around 1cm or less to the right of the tummy button. A small tube is inserted into the incisions and carbon dioxide and gas is pumped into the tummy to inflate the abdomen making it easier for the surgeon to perform the operation.

A laparoscope (which has a small camera) will be placed through the incision which provides full visibility of the inside of the stomach on a monitor. The surgery to remove the gallbladder is then done laparoscopically. In a small number of instances it is not possible to complete the operation with keyhole surgery with open surgery being the next course of action.

For most people this is a very effective and safe operation from which they make a full recovery and no longer suffer with the distress caused by the abdominal pain. Patients can return to eating a normal diet.

Some patients with gallstones present with no symptoms or may have only a single episode of pain with no reoccurrence. In such cases surgery is not needed as the problem may solve itself without medical intervention.

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