The gallbladder is a small organ in your right side below your rib cage and under your liver. The purpose of the gallbladder is to store bile that is secreted by your liver and is squeezed into your stomach as you eat to help you digest fat. The bile can become thickened and form "stones" commonly made up of cholesterol. Though gallstones may not cause any problems, some people experience pain caused by inflammation of the gallbladder by the stones or gallstones passing into the bile ducts. This pain is usually in the right upper side, below the rib cage or in the middle of the stomach and most commonly follows meals with a high fat content. If your doctor believes that you may have gallstones, an ultrasound to visualize the stones will be done. Blood tests may also be performed. Your doctor may then refer you to a surgeon for consideration to have your gallbladder removed (cholecystectomy).
Surgeons at UC Davis Medical Center have been performing the laparoscopic cholecystectomy since 1990. This method has been chosen as the best choice for patients as it reduces the post-operative recovery discomfort and length of time to resume normal activities. The laparoscopic procedure involves the use of three one-half inch incisions below your right rib cage and one one-half inch incision in your navel.
The surgery is done by viewing the procedure through a scope attached to a small camera and takes about two hours. Your gallbladder is removed in its entirety and bile is able to flow directly from your liver into your stomach. If your surgeon is concerned that a gallstone has entered your bile duct, you may have a dye injected into your bile duct and an x-ray taken at the time of surgery to determine if a stone needs to be removed. Rarely, a patient may need to have their surgery changed to an "open" procedure after the laparoscopic attempt has begun because of bleeding, abnormal anatomy or other causes which the surgeon believes contribute to making the laparoscopic method unsafe.
Most patients stay in the hospital for less than 24 hours after the surgery, if there are no complications. The average time for patients to return to most usual activities is between one and three weeks, depending on the physical stress involved in the activity and the individual's ability to tolerate discomfort. Patients may shower 24 hours after surgery. There is no restriction on the patient's diet after surgery though some complain of increased gas or bloating after meals for up to several weeks after surgery.