By Rod Goncalves, MD, general surgeon, Rutherford Regional Health System
A cholecystectomy (koh-luh-sis-TEK-tuh-me) is a surgical procedure to remove your gallbladder, an organ near your liver that collects and stores bile, a digestive fluid produced in your liver.

A cholecystectomy may be necessary if you experience pain from gallstones that block the flow of bile. A cholecystectomy is a common surgery, and it carries only a small risk of complications. In most cases, you can go home the same day of your cholecystectomy.

A cholecystectomy is most commonly performed by inserting a tiny video camera and special surgical tools through four small incisions to see inside your abdomen and remove the gallbladder. Doctors call this a laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

During a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, the surgeon makes four small incisions in your abdomen. A tube with a tiny video camera is inserted into your abdomen through one of the incisions. Your surgeon watches a video monitor in the operating room while using surgical tools inserted through the other incisions in your abdomen to remove your gallbladder.

You may undergo an imaging test, such as an X-ray or ultrasound, if your surgeon is concerned about possible gallstones or other problems in your bile duct. Then your incisions are sutured, and you’re taken to a recovery area. A laparoscopic cholecystectomy takes under an hour.

It may be necessary in some cases for the surgeon to make one large incision to remove the gallbladder. This is called an open cholecystectomy.

A cholecystectomy can relieve the pain and discomfort of gallstones. Conservative treatments, such as dietary modifications, usually can’t stop gallstones from recurring. A cholecystectomy is the only way to prevent gallstones.

Most people won’t experience digestive problems after a cholecystectomy. Your gallbladder isn’t essential to healthy digestion. You will want to discuss with your doctor any changes in your digestive habits or new symptoms following your procedure.

How quickly you can return to normal activities after a cholecystectomy depends on which procedure your surgeon uses and your overall health. People undergoing a laparoscopic cholecystectomy may be able to go back to work in a matter of days. Those undergoing an open cholecystectomy may need a week or more to recover enough to return to work.

As a general surgeon with the team at Rutherford Surgical Associates, I can answer your questions about gallbladder removal and other laparoscopic procedures. For an appointment call me at 828-286-1743.