Gallbladder removal surgery, also called a cholecystectomy, is performed when a patient has gallstones that block the flow of bile to their small intestine, a perforation of the gallbladder, or if they have gallbladder cancer. Removing the gallbladder eliminates gallstones and prevents them from forming in the future.
Types of gallbladder removal surgery
A gallbladder removal surgery is a low-risk procedure, usually performed on an outpatient basis. A surgeon will remove your gallbladder using one of two methods: open (traditional) or laparoscopic.
- An open cholecystectomy requires a 4- to 6-inch incision in the upper right-hand side of your abdomen. Through this incision, the surgeon separates the gallbladder from the other organs and removes it from your body. This procedure typically lasts about an hour. Open gallbladder removal surgery is recommended when laparoscopic surgery isn’t a safe option, such as in patients who are obese, pregnant, or have severe liver problems.
- Using the laparoscopic method for gallbladder removal, which is less invasive, a surgeon will make 3 to 4 tiny incisions. A long, thin tube with a video camera on the end, called a laparoscope, is inserted into one incision. This allows the surgeon to view and remove the gallbladder. Most gallbladder surgeries are laparoscopic. Laparoscopic surgeries are usually associated with shorter, less painful recovery times than open surgeries.
Gallbladder removal surgeries are usually performed by a general surgeon. During surgery, patients are under general anesthesia and won’t feel any pain. Full recovery from a gallbladder removal can take four to six weeks but many patients will be able to resume daily activities within one week.
Are there alternatives to gallbladder removal surgery?
If you have a perforation of your gallbladder or gallbladder cancer, having your gallbladder removed is the most effective option. However, if your reason for considering gallbladder removal surgery is due to gallstones, there are some other options.
- Oral bile salts – These are best for patients with x-ray negative cholesterol gallstones (those which haven’t yet calcified and can’t be detected on x-ray) and normal gallbladder function. Oral bile salts are used to dissolve gallstones before they become symptomatic and to prevent the formation of gallstones in the future.
- Extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy – This is done with the use of shock waves to break gallstones into smaller pieces. This treatment is also best for patients with non-calcified gallstones and normal gallbladder function. Lithotripsy may be recommended before prescribing oral bile salts to help gallstones dissolve faster.
Finding a fair price for your gallbladder removal surgery
If your doctor has recommended gallbladder removal surgery, you may have more options than you think. You have the right to shop around for the best price for your medical procedure. The first step is to determine which factors will affect the cost of your surgery.
Then, you can learn what your procedure should cost. New Choice Health has compiled gallbladder removal cost information from medical facilities all over the country to help you find a fair price for your surgery. Learn more about the cost of your gallbladder removal surgery today.