Gallbladder Removal - Open Incision

This surgery involves the removal of the gallbladder through a cut (incision) in the upper right part of the abdomen.

This surgery involves the removal of the gallbladder through a cut (incision) in the upper right part of the abdomen.

The gallbladder is a small organ located beneath the liver on the upper right side of the abdomen.

  • The gallbladder stores bile that the liver makes. When needed, the gallbladder sends the bile to the small bowel to help with food digestion.
  • Sometimes stones block the ducts that transport bile to the bowel. When this happens, the bile can back up into the liver, gallbladder or bile ducts.
  • Some gallstones are visible on an ultrasound, a special test that bounces sound waves off an organ or tissue.
  • If your healthcare provider thinks you have gallstones, but cannot see them on an ultrasound, he may order a special X-ray. This X-ray uses a radioactive tracer to check the bile duct for stones. These stones could cause symptoms in the future, even if you have your gallbladder removed.

The gallbladder may need to be removed if it is inflamed, infected or contains gallstones that are causing severe pain. Depending on the circumstances, your healthcare provider will remove your gallbladder in one of two ways.

  • An open gallbladder removal is surgery to remove the gallbladder through a cut, or incision, in the upper right part of the abdomen.
  • In many cases, a surgeon may be able to do the surgery through a laparoscope. In those cases, your healthcare provider will remove your gallbladder using small medical instruments and a camera inserted into three or four small cuts in your abdomen.

If you have had previous abdominal surgery, you may have some internal fibrous or scar tissue called adhesions. This scar tissue may influence how your surgeon does the surgery.

If you have gallstones, but they are not causing symptoms, you may not need to have your gallbladder removed. However, if tests show that your gallbladder is not working properly, or you have gallstones that are causing problems, your healthcare provider may need to remove your gallbladder. Some of the symptoms may include:

  • Pain after eating, usually in the upper right or upper middle area of your stomach
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Indigestion
  • Inflammation or infection of the gallbladder (cholecystitis)

Prior to surgery, tell your healthcare provider about any medications you are taking (including over-the-counter medications and supplements). Ask about specific instructions you should follow before the procedure. These may include:

  • Medications you should not take before the surgery, such as blood thinners or aspirin
  • Regular medications you should continue to take on the day of your surgery
  • How many hours you should stop eating and drinking before surgery

If you are a smoker, you should quit smoking. It can cause problems with your recovery.

General anesthesia is the most common type of anesthesia for an open gallbladder removal. This is when the anesthesiologist puts you into a deep sleep. You will be unable to see, hear or feel anything.

  • After your surgery, you will likely spend a night or two in the hospital.
  • You can go home when you are able to drink, eat and move around.
  • You may need pain medication and help at home while you recover.

Do not forget to arrange for transportation to and from the facility. You may also need help at home as you recover. Before discharge, make sure you understand all:

  • Home care instructions (including medications and side effects)
  • Follow-up plans.

What should I ask my healthcare provider before having an open gallbladder removal?

  • What is my diagnosis and reason for the surgery?
  • Why do I need to have an open gallbladder removal and not a laparoscopic surgery?
  • Are there any alternatives to this surgery?
  • How many gallbladder surgeries, open and laparoscopic, have you done? What have your results been?
  • What kind of anesthesia will I have? What are the possible side effects?
  • What are the possible complications to this surgery?
  • How will I feel after the surgery? Will I have to modify my activity?
  • How long should I fast before the surgery? Is there any other special preparation for the surgery? (If so, get clear instructions on what you need to do.)


Also known as:

Open Gallbladder Removal
Gallbladder Surgery
Gallbladder Removal - Open Incision
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