What are gallstones?
Gallstones are ‘stones’ that form in your gallbladder. They are common and can run in families. The risk of developing gallstones increases as you get older and if you eat a diet rich in fat.
For some people gallstones can cause severe symptoms, with repeated attacks of abdominal pain being the most common.
What are the benefits of surgery?
You should be free of pain and able to eat a normal diet. Surgery should also prevent the serious complications that gallstones can cause.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
Surgery is recommended as it is the only dependable way to cure the condition.
It is possible to dissolve the stones or even shatter them into small pieces but these techniques involve unpleasant drugs that have side effects and a high failure rate. Antibiotics can be used to treat any infection of your gallbladder. Eating a diet low in fat may help to prevent attacks of pain.
What does the operation involve?
The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about an hour. Your surgeon will use laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery as this is associated with less pain, less scarring and a faster return to normal activities. They will make several small cuts on your abdomen so they can insert tubes (ports) into your abdomen. Your surgeon will insert surgical instruments through the ports along with a telescope so they can see inside your abdomen and perform the operation.
Your surgeon will remove your gallbladder from your abdomen through one of the ports.
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home the next day.
You should be able to return to work after 2 to 4 weeks, depending on how much surgery you need and your type of work.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
You should make a full recovery and be able to return to normal activities and eat a normal diet.
What complications can happen?
Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.
General complications of any operation
- Unsightly scarring of your skin
- Developing a hernia in the scar
- Infection of the surgical site (wound)
- Blood clot in your leg
- Blood clot in your lung
Specific complications of this operation
- Damage to structures such as your bowel, bladder or blood vessels
- Developing a hernia near one of the cuts
- Surgical emphysema (crackling sensation in your skin caused by trapped carbon dioxide gas)
- Leaking of bile or stones
- Retained stones in your common bile duct
- Continued pain
- Needing to go to the toilet more often
- Inflammation of the lining of your abdomen
- Bile duct injury
- Allergic reaction to the equipment, materials, medication or dye
- Bowel injury
- Pancreatitis, if a stone moves into your common bile duct
- Serious damage to your liver or its associated blood vessels
- Tissues can join together in an abnormal way