What is a cholecystectomy?
A cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of the gallbladder. It is a common surgery that allows bile to flow from your liver
into your small intestine, instead of being stored in your gallbladder.
There are no known, long-term effects on a patient’s growth and development following a cholecystectomy.
When is a cholecystectomy needed?
In an event where your gallbladder is functioning abnormally, a cholecystectomy may be needed. If you have been diagnosed with gallstones, this may be another reason for this surgery.
Both conditions can lead to severe abdominal pain, as well as infections. When gallstones block the flow of bile, it can cause the gallbladder to become inflamed. This is a condition known as cholecystitis. Left untreated, gallstones can move to other
parts of your body or cause your gallbladder to burst, which could be life-threatening. Some of the most common signs of gallstones include:
- Pain on the right side of your abdomen (can extend to your back or shoulder)
- Feeling bloated
When is surgery needed?
Surgery is not always required to address common problems with a patient’s gallbladder. Before recommending a specific type of treatment, your surgeon will conduct a thorough examination to determine what is causing the pain in your abdomen.
During these tests, they will look for the presence of stones in your gallbladder. They can also test to see if your gallbladder is functioning properly.
What can I expect from surgery?
During this procedure, your surgeon will make several small incisions on the right side of your abdomen. Then, they will insert thin, hollow tubes directly into those incisions.
Through one incision, they will insert a tool called a laparoscope. This is a thin tube with a camera attached to the end. Once inside your abdomen, it will show a video of your gallbladder on a screen.
Your surgeon will use this video to perform and monitor the surgery as they work. They will make other small incisions to help safely remove your gallbladder.
During this procedure, your surgeon will remove your gallbladder through one long incision on the upper-right side of your abdomen, rather than several smaller ones.
This type of gallbladder surgery is considered more invasive than a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. In general, a laparoscopic cholecystectomy is considered less painful and carries a lower risk of complications. It also has a shorter recovery time, allowing patients to resume their regular activities as quickly as possible.
There may be some circumstances, such as a severely inflamed gallbladder, that require surgeons to do an open procedure.
Before the Surgery
You are welcome to bring small, soft items that bring you comfort on the day of your surgery. For example, our pediatric patients can bring blankets, stuffed animals, or small toys.
Leaving the Hospital
Most patients can go home within 24 to 48 hours of their surgery. Before discharge, you must have a normal temperature and should be able to eat, drink, and take pain medications orally.
Post-Surgical At-Home Care
Before you head home, your care team will thoroughly explain how to care for your incision. While your specific recommendations will be based on your individual surgery, these general guidelines can help you get started.
For some patients, surgeons may decide to leave a clear or gauze dressing in place on top of the incision. You will need to clean, change, and eventually remove this dressing to keep the incision sites clean.
After your surgery, wait at least five days before bathing. On the fifth day, you can take a shower or a shallow bath. If you need to cleanse before then, a sponge bath is permissible. However, the incisions should not be submerged under water for at least one week.
After you arrive home, you may feel nauseous for the first 24 to 48 hours. This is a normal side effect of the anesthesia. While there are no strict guidelines on which foods to eat or avoid, you may find that your appetite takes a while to return. In the meantime, you can take small sips of clear liquids (such as ginger ale or juice) to prevent dehydration. This is especially important for pediatric patients who lose fluid and salts.
Take your time during your at-home recovery, and do not rush to return immediately to your pre-surgery activity level. Your body needs time to recover.
Pediatric patients can usually return to school one week after they arrive home. However, they should not participate in any type of sports or lifting anything above 10 pounds for at least three weeks.
Before you return home, your doctor will give you a prescription for pain medicine. If approved by your doctor, you may also take over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Motrin®).
If you are ever unsure about your medical condition following a cholecystectomy, reach out to your doctor. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
- Severe pain or cramping in your abdomen
- Pain while eating
- No bowel movement for three days
- Bleeding, redness, inflammation, odors, or drainage at the incision sites
If your child underwent a cholecystectomy, monitor them closely for these symptoms and any related issues. Sometimes, they may not be able to tell you exactly where the pain is or what they’re experiencing, but if they are avoiding mealtime or appear
to be in distress, give us a call immediately.
In some cases, children can develop symptoms after a cholecystectomy that mimic those of an upper respiratory infection. These may include: