Cholecystectomy is a common surgery done to remove the gallbladder. This surgery may be necessary to provide pain relief from gallstones. It also may be needed to remedy complications gallstones may cause, such as an inflamed gallbladder (cholecystitis), an inflamed pancreas (pancreatitis) or gallstones in the bile duct (choledoncholithiasis).

Most gallbladder removal surgery is done laparoscopically, meaning it’s minimally invasive, without the need for a large incision (called an open cholecystectomy). A tiny video camera and special surgical tools are used through 4 small incisions in your abdomen to see inside and remove the gallbladder. Often, a laparoscopic cholecystectomy can be done in same-day surgery, so you won’t have to spend a night in the hospital.

What to Expect

If you require a cholecystectomy, you’ll drink a liquid to clean out your intestines in the days leading up to your surgery, and you’ll fast for about 8 hours before surgery. Your doctor may tell you to stop taking certain medications. Once at the hospital, you’ll be given anesthesia through an IV, which will put you to sleep. If the surgery is laparoscopic, you’ll receive 4 small incisions. A device equipped with a camera allows your doctor to see what is inside with pictures projected on a monitor during the surgery. This surgery takes 1 to 2 hours. The anesthesia must wear off before you can be released from the hospital, and you’ll need someone to drive you home. It takes about a week to fully recover. 


If you require an open cholecystectomy, your gallbladder will be removed through an incision in your abdomen, in a surgery that takes 1 to 2 hours. You’ll spend 2 to 3 nights in the hospital, and it takes 4 to 6 weeks to fully recover. After either procedure, you might have some temporary diarrhea.

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