Cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of the gallbladder. Despite the development of non-surgical techniques, it is the most common method for treating symptomatic gallstones, although there are other reasons for having this surgery done. Each year more than 500,000 Americans have gallbladder surgery. Surgery options include the standard procedure, called laparoscopic cholecystectomy, and an older more invasive procedure, called open cholecystectomy. A cholecystectomy is performed when attempts to treat gallstones with ultrasound to shatter the stones or medications to dissolve them have not proven feasible.
Traditional open cholecystectomy is a major abdominal surgery in which the surgeon removes the gallbladder through a 4- to 7-inch (10 to 18 cm) incision. Patients usually remain in the hospital for about three to seven days and may require several additional weeks to recover at home.
Laparoscopic cholecystectomy has now replaced open cholecystectomy as the first-choice of treatment for gallstones unless there are contraindications to the laparoscopic approach. Sometimes a laparoscopic cholecystectomy will be converted to an open cholecystectomy for technical reasons or safety.
Laparoscopic cholecystectomy requires several small incisions in the abdomen to allow the insertion of surgical instruments and a small video camera. After the initial incisions, the surgeon will inflate the abdominal cavity with carbon dioxide. The camera sends a magnified image from inside the body to a video monitor, giving the surgeon a close-up view of the organs and tissues. The surgeon watches the monitor and performs the operation by manipulating the surgical instruments through separate small incisions. The gallbladder is identified and carefully Calot's Triangle (the area bound by the cystic artery, cystic duct, and hepatic duct) is cleared. The cystic duct and the cystic artery are identified, clipped with tiny titanium clips and cut.Then the gallbladder is separated from liver bed and removed through one of the small incisions. This type of surgery requires meticulous surgical skill, but in straightforward cases can be done in about an hour.
Recently, this procedure is performed through a single incision in the patient's belly-button. This advanced technique is called as Single Port Access Surgery.
Laparoscopic cholecystectomy does not require the abdominal muscles to be cut, resulting in less pain, quicker healing, improved cosmetic results, and fewer complications such as infection. Most patients can be discharged on the same or following day as the surgery, and most patients can return to any type of occupation in about a week.
1. An uncommon but potentially serious complication with the new procedure is injury to the common bile duct, which connects the gallbladder and liver. An injured bile duct can leak bile and cause a painful and potentially dangerous infection. Many cases of minor injury to the common bile duct can be managed non-surgically. Major injury to the bile duct, however, is a very serious problem and may require corrective surgery. At this time it is unclear whether these complications are more common following laparoscopic cholecystectomy than following standard cholecystectomy.
Abdominal peritoneal adhesions, gangrenous gallbladders, and other problems that obscure vision are discovered during about 5% of laparoscopic surgeries, forcing surgeons to switch to the standard cholecystectomy for safe removal of the gallbladder. Converting to open surgery does not equate to a complication.
A Consensus Development Conference panel, convened by the National Institutes of Health in September 1992, endorsed laparoscopic cholecystectomy as a safe and effective surgical treatment for gallbladder removal, equal in efficacy to the traditional open surgery. The panel noted, however, that laparoscopic cholecystectomy should be performed only by experienced surgeons and only on patients who have symptoms of gallstones.
In addition, the panel noted that the outcome of laparoscopic cholecystectomy is greatly influenced by the training, experience, skill, and judgment of the surgeon performing the procedure. Therefore, the panel recommended that strict guidelines be developed for training and granting credentials in laparoscopic surgery, determining competence, and monitoring quality. According to the panel, efforts should continue toward developing a noninvasive approach to gallstone treatment that will not only eliminate existing stones, but also prevent their formation or recurrence.