What are Gallstones? Gallstones form in the gallbladder due to changes in the balance of the cholesterol and bile acids. This maybe due to weight gain, pregnancy, aging, or losing a significant amount of weight too quickly as in after fat loss surgery. These gallstones sometimes can cause pain. Although up to 40% of the population may have gallstones, only a small percentage of them will experience symptoms such as pain from them.There is a system of tubes that connects the gallbladder, liver, and pancreas to your bowel (intestines). This system is a one-way road. If you have symptoms from the gallstones then it’s called symptomatic cholelithiasis. If the stone blocks the gallbladder from emptying, then the gallbladder can become inflamed and infected. This is called cholecystitis. If the stones pass from the gallbladder to the common tubes, this can cause inflammation and infection of everything behind. When the stone is in the common duct, it’s called choledocholithiasis. This can cause inflammation of the liver (hepatitis) or pancreas (pancreatitis) or the common system (cholangitis). These can be life threatening and you may need emergency surgery.
The surgery performed to remove the gallbladder is called cholecystectomy. The surgery is typically done for the following reasons:
The surgery is most commonly (98%) performed laparoscopically. This is a minimally invasive procedure that typically takes about an hour. The risks of surgery are as follows:
The possibility of risks is very minimal and the healthier you are, the less risks there are. Sometimes a laparoscopic procedure needs to be converted to an open procedure where the surgeon makes a bigger incision. This is done if there is severe inflammation around the gallbladder that makes it hard to see the operative area using the laparoscope. Our conversion rate to open surgery is less than 1%.
Minimally invasive surgery is performed with very small incisions. First the anatomy of the gallbladder and surrounding structures is identified. The gallbladder is then removed with precision using laparoscopic or robotic instruments. The incisions are then closed.
The vast majority of the patients will have this surgery as an outpatient and will go home the same day. You will need to be on a light diet that is low in fat and cholesterol for about 2 days after surgery so that you can recover from the anesthesia. We recommend a diet low in fat and cholesterol always but try to follow this for about 4 weeks after surgery to help the recovery process. Typically, after recovery there are no dietary restrictions.