The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ that is found beneath the right side of your liver. Its main purpose is to collect bile, a liquid produced by the liver. Bile travels through ducts and is then delivered into the small intestine where it helps you digest the fat in your food.
Some people, however, tend to form gallstones. These are hard, rock-like lumps – varying in size from a few millimeters to a few centimeters — and made up of cholesterol, bile salts and calcium. If you have a tendency to form stones, they may gather in your gall bladder and block the flow of bile. This can cause pain, vomiting, indigestion, and occasionally, fever. Some people may also develop jaundice, a yellowing of the skin. Attacks can last from a few minutes to several hours.
No one understands why some people form gallstones and others don’t, but both family history and hormones are thought to play a role. Women, people who are overweight, anyone with high cholesterol, people with chronic intestinal diseases such as ulcerative colitis and people over 40 are all at higher risk.
Why don’t I need my gallbladder?
The gallbladder, while helpful, is not necessary. It is a storage and regulating organ. Even without it, your liver will continue to produce bile and deliver it to your small intestine. The gallbladder simply allows the release of extra bile when you’ve eaten a particularly high-fat meal, but your body can adjust to living without it. In rare cases, some people may need to avoid super high-fat meals after gallbladder surgery.
Gallbladder Surgery Wait Time
Unless you enter the emergency department with a serious gallbladder attack, gallbladder surgery is viewed as elective and prone to being cancelled. As a result of rationing of care by the Canadian public health system and limited operating room times for surgeons, you may have to wait, particularly if your case is not deemed “urgent.” Timely Medical Alternatives can help you find a private clinic to expedite your case so you can get appropriate surgery as quickly as possible.
Typically, we can get you surgery within 2-3 weeks from the time we receive your diagnostic package. In certain cases, we can get a client surgery within 24 hours. Call or e-mail us to get a accurate quote and timeline for your surgery.
What are the different surgical options for me?
Most commonly today, surgeons perform gallbladder surgery using a laparoscope – a special and very small camera used to examine the inside of the body. While you are asleep under a general anesthetic, the surgeon makes a small incision just below your naval and using a narrow tube-like instrument known as a cannula, inserts the laparoscope. Then, making several other small incisions, the surgeon inserts instruments and removes your gallbladder through one of the openings. The advantage of a laparoscopy is that it is a smaller surgery with a fast recovery time and usually, less pain.
Some people, however, are not able to have a laparoscopy. If you have a particularly severe inflammation of the gallbladder, an inflammation of the abdominal lining (peritonitis), dense scar tissue, obesity or a bleeding disorder, you may need what’s called “open surgery.” If this occurs, the ultimate procedure is much the same, but the incision is longer (generally five to seven inches) and the surgeon works without the aid of the laparoscope. This is more major surgery and will require longer recovery time.
Your surgeon will carefully asses your case and decide which surgery makes the most sense for you.
Gallbladder Removal Surgery Recovery Time
All patients are likely to have some shoulder pain, lasting up to 72 hours. This is referred pain from the gas used to inflate the abdomen during the surgery. Many people will experience diarrhea and a loss of appetite. If you have a laparoscopy, you will usually be able to go home the same day or within one day and total recovery time will be about a week to 10 days. If you have open surgery you may need to stay in hospital longer. Total recovery time will be four to six weeks. Your surgeon can give you an estimate of anticipated recovery time at the time of your consultation.
What can I expect when I’m fully recovered?
Once they have recovered from surgery, most people will discover their gallbladder pain has completely disappeared. Some people may not be able to eat large meals of very rich food without indigestion, however.