How It's Done
No matter which type of surgery you have, you will be put under general anesthesia, making you unconscious during your surgery. An intravenous (IV) line inserted into one of your veins will deliver fluids and medications.
Traditional surgery – The surgeon cuts a 6-inch incision in the upper right side of your abdomen and removes your gallbladder. Often, a test called cholangiography is done during the operation to look for any stones that may have passed into the main bile duct (in this test, a dye is injected into the bile ducts and X-rays are taken). If stones are seen on the X-rays, they may be removed, and a tube may then be placed in the common bile duct (and coming out of the skin) for drainage, until some time after the surgery. After the gallbladder is removed, the incision is closed with stitches. While in the hospital, you gradually will resume eating a normal diet and get out of bed. Usually you stay in the hospital for two to five days.
Laparoscopic surgery – The surgeon makes a small incision at the navel and puts air into the abdomen to make it easier to see. This help to avoid damaging any organs with the incisions or instruments. Next the laparoscope is inserted through the small incision at your navel. Once the laparoscope is inside your abdomen, a camera on the laparoscope transmits images to a viewing screen. Three smaller incisions are made, and the surgical instruments are inserted through these incisions. The surgeon cuts out the gallbladder, and removes the gallbladder through one of the incisions, usually the one at your bellybutton. All of the instruments are removed, and the surgeon closes the incisions with stitches or surgical tape. After you wake up from anesthesia, the IV line remains in place until you can drink fluids on your own, usually within a few hours after surgery. If you are having a same-day procedure, you can leave the hospital when you feel well enough to go home safely. You may be able to eat a light meal later that day (in the evening). Sometimes patients stay in the hospital until the next morning.
If there are any difficulties during a laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon will switch to a traditional cholecystectomy. This may happen if there is too much bleeding, if there is much scarring from previous surgery, if the gallbladder is difficult to remove, or if there is severe infection.