A cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of the gallbladder. This is a pear-shaped organ on the top right side of your belly, immediately below your liver. The gallbladder collects and stores bile, a digestive fluid produced by the liver. A cholecystectomy is performed to treat gallstones. The surgeons at our General Surgery Department are experienced in performing Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy and minimally invasive gallbladder removal procedures.
WHAT ARE GALLSTONES?
Gallstones are “stones” that form in your gallbladder as a result of digestive fluid deposits that harden over time. They are very common amongst the population at large as both an acquired and inherited condition. A Cholecystectomy, which involves the removal of both your gallstones and your gallbladder, is required to treat this condition.
HOW DO GALLSTONES FORM?
To aid with fat digestion, your liver creates bile, which is concentrated and stored in the gallbladder. After you eat, your gallbladder empties the bile stored in your intestines, and fat digestion begins. Gallstones form when bile accumulates and hardens in your gallbladder. This process is closely linked to your dietary choices.
If the stones pass from your gallbladder into your common bile duct, they can cause jaundice (yellowing of your eyes and skin), a dangerous infection of your bile ducts (cholangitis), or pancreatic inflammation (acute pancreatitis). These complications can be life-threatening and even fatal.
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COMMON GALLSTONE CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS
Dietary habits, particularly a high-fat diet, are the leading cause of gallstone formation. Your risk for gallstones increases with age, and also occur more in women.
Gallstones can cause severe symptoms in certain people, such as frequent bouts of stomach discomfort, vomiting, and indigestion.
Pain is caused by either stones obstructing the gallbladder duct (cystic duct) and preventing your gallbladder from emptying (biliary colic) or gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis). The pain might prove severe enough to necessitate emergency hospitalization and surgery.
WHY YOU MIGHT NEED A CHOLECYSTECTOMY
Having your gallbladder removed will free you of discomfort, nausea, and indigestion. It will also allow you to follow a regular diet. Furthermore, surgery should prevent the more serious complications inherent to gallstones. Fortunately, your body will adjust and function normally without your gallbladder after a few weeks.
While gallstones may never be a medical concern for some people or take many years to develop, surgery is always recommended as the only permanent treatment.
Other options are available but are not as successful as surgery since they do not treat the underlying issue. The stones can be dissolved or even broken up into little bits. A healthy diet with a limited fat intake may help prevent pain attacks, but it will do nothing to get rid of the gallstones.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T HAVE A CHOLECYSTECTOMY?
If you have already shown signs of gallstones, and even if you are pain-free for certain periods, the discomfort is likely to recur. Aside from the risk of developing further symptoms and dealing with chronic pain for the rest of your life, other life-threatening conditions may arise as a result which would require surgical intervention.
WHAT DOES LAPAROSCOPIC CHOLECYSTECTOMY INVOLVE?
This operation is performed under a general anaesthetic, and usually only lasts about an hour. Your surgeon will opt for laparoscopic surgery as it is generally less painful, leaves patients with less scarring and allows them to return to their daily activities faster than other surgical alternatives.
Your surgeon will make a tiny incision near or on your umbilicus to introduce a tool into your abdominal cavity to fill it with gas (carbon dioxide). They will make several small cuts on your abdomen to allow the insertion of other surgical instruments along with a telescope to see inside the abdomen during the operation.
Your surgeon will free up your cystic duct and artery before separating your gallbladder from your liver and removing it through one of the minor incisions. In some cases, there may be gallstones outside the gallbladder; your surgeon will take x-rays during the procedure to ensure this. If the x-ray shows stones in your common bile duct, your surgeon may remove the stones during the procedure or later using a flexible telescope passed down your oesophagus.
In certain rare cases, the procedure cannot be completed using the laparoscopic approach. The surgeons will then resort to open surgery, which involves making a larger cut behind your right rib cage in most cases. Your surgeon will remove the instruments and then close the cuts.