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Learning About Cholecystectomy

What is it?

This surgery removes the gallbladder and gallstones. The gallbladder stores bile made by your liver. The bile helps you digest fats. Gallstones are made of cholesterol and other things found in bile.

The surgery is also known as cholecystectomy (ko-luh-sis-TEK-tuh-mee).

Your body will work fine without a gallbladder. Bile will go straight from the liver to the intestine. There may be small changes in how you digest food. But you probably won't notice them.

How is the surgery done?

This is usually a laparoscopic surgery. To do this type of surgery, a doctor puts a lighted tube, or scope, and other surgical tools through small cuts (incisions) in your belly. The doctor is able to see your organs with the scope. After your gallbladder is removed, you will no longer have gallstones. The cuts leave scars that usually fade with time.

Open surgery may be done if problems are found during laparoscopic surgery. With open surgery, the gallbladder is removed through one larger cut in your belly. And the hospital stay is longer.

What can you expect after surgery?

You will probably feel weak and tired for several days after you return home. Your belly may be swollen. If you had laparoscopic surgery, you may also have pain in your shoulder for about 24 hours.

You may have gas or need to burp a lot at first.

A few people get diarrhea. It usually goes away in 2 to 4 weeks. But it may last longer. How quickly you get better depends on which kind of surgery you had.

For laparoscopic surgery, most people can go back to work or their normal routine in 1 to 2 weeks. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.

If you have open surgery, it will probably take 4 to 6 weeks before you get back to your normal routine.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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