What is the gallbladder?

The gallbladder is a muscular sac in which bile from the liver is stored.

What are the symptoms of gallbladder problems?

Gallbladder problems usually are first noticeable to patients as sudden pain in the upper right stomach or even in the middle of the back. Sometimes less severe symptoms, like indigestion or milder pain, also can be due to gallbladder disease. Sometimes – although not always – patients have gallstones. These also can be removed laparoscopically.

What is the treatment for gallbladder disease?

The only sure treatment for gallbladder disease is removal of the gallbladder.

How is laparoscopic cholecystecomy performed?

A small incision is made and a trocar (hollow tube) is inserted. The abdomen is then filled with carbon dioxide gas to allow visualization of the abdominal organs. A scope with a light and camera is inserted into this trocar and the image is shown on TV monitors. Three to four more small incisions are then made and trocars are inserted to allow placement of the instruments used to perform the operation. The gallbladder is taken out through one of the incisions.

What are the advantages of laparoscopic cholecystectomy?

A traditional cholecystectomy requires a large incision in the abdomen, a long hospital stay and a six-week minimum recovery. The benefits of the laparoscopic procedure include less pain, a short hospital stay (one night at most) and a quicker return to normal functioning (usually within a week).

What are potential complications?

Any surgery has the potential for complications such as bleeding or infection. There is less risk in the laparoscopic cases because of smaller incisions and reduced healing time.

Washington University in St. Louis minimally invasive surgeons who perform this procedure:

Michael M. Awad, MD, PhD
Jeffrey A. Blatnik, MD
Michael Brunt, MD
J. Chris Eagon, MD
Shaina Eckhouse, MD

For a patient appointment with a minimally invasive surgeon, please call (314) 454-8877.