This page will give you information about an open cholecystectomy. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.
You can also download and print a PDF version of this factsheet, with space for your own questions or notes.
What are gallstones?
Gallstones are ‘stones’ that form in your gallbladder. They are common and can run in families. The risk of developing gallstones increases as you get older and if you eat a diet rich in fat.
For some people gallstones can cause severe symptoms, with repeated attacks of abdominal pain being the most common.
What are the benefits of surgery?
You should be free of pain and able to eat a normal diet. Surgery should also prevent the serious complications that gallstones can cause.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
It is possible to dissolve the stones or even shatter them into small pieces but these techniques involve unpleasant drugs that have side effects and a high failure rate.
Antibiotics can be used to treat any infection of your gallbladder. Eating a diet low in fat may help to prevent attacks of pain.
However, these alternatives will not cure the condition and symptoms are likely to come back.
What does the operation involve?
The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about an hour.
Your surgeon will make a cut on your upper abdomen and free up your cystic duct and artery. They will separate your gallbladder from your liver, and remove it.
What complications can happen?
- infection of the surgical site (wound)
- unsightly scarring
- developing a hernia in the scar
- blood clots
- leaking of bile or stones
- retained stones
- continued pain
- inflammation of the lining of your abdomen
- chest infection
- bile duct injury
- allergic reaction
- bowel injury
- continued bowel paralysis
- serious damage to your liver
- tissues can join together in an abnormal way
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home after 2 to 4 days.
You should be able to return to work after about 6 weeks, depending on how much surgery you need and your type of work.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
You should make a full recovery and be able to return to normal activities.
Gallstones are a common problem. An operation to remove your gallbladder should result in you being free of pain and able to eat a normal diet.
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Last reviewed: September 2018