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Child examined by doctor for gallbladder removal surgery

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
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Jaundice

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?

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.

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.

Contacting Your Surgical Team

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
  • Chills
  • Pain while eating
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Diarrhea
  • 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:

  • Runny nose
  • Earache
  • Sore throat
  • Rash