An open cholecystectomy is an operation to remove the gallbladder.
What are Gallstones ?
Gallstones are ‘stones’ that form in the gallbladder (see figure 1).
Figure 1 - The gallbladder and surrounding structures
They are quite common but increase with age and in people who eat a diet rich in fat. In some people, gallstones can cause severe symptoms with repeated attacks of abdominal pain being the most common.
- You may have trouble breathing, or get pneumonia or blood clots after having an open cholecystectomy. The bile duct, nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and other organs near the gallbladder may be damaged. You can get an infection or bleed too much. Your symptoms may not disappear at once and may still continue.
- Without treatment, the symptoms of cholecystitis and cholelithiasis may get worse. The bile flow may get blocked or the gallbladder tissue may die. The gallbladder may burst and spill bile and blood inside the abdomen. This may lead to serious medical problems, such as peritonitis (infection of abdominal wall membrane) and sepsis (blood infection). Ask your caregiver if you are worried or have questions about your surgery, medicine, or care.
- Abdominal ultrasound: An abdominal ultrasound is a test to see inside your abdomen. Sound waves are used to show pictures of your gallbladder and abdomen on a TV-like screen. This allows your caregiver to check for stones and other problems.
- Blood tests: You may need blood taken for tests. The blood can be taken from a blood vessel in your hand, arm, or the bend in your elbow. It is tested to see how your body is doing. It can give your caregivers more information about your health condition. You may need to have blood drawn more than once.
- Computerized tomography scan: This is also called a CT or CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your abdomen to look for problems and abnormal changes.
- ERCP: ERCP is also called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. This test is done during an endoscopy to find stones, tumors, or other problems. Dye is put into the endoscopy tube. The dye helps your pancreas and bile ducts show up better on x-rays. People who are allergic to shellfish (lobster, crab, or shrimp) may be allergic to this dye. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to shellfish, dyes, or any medicines. If you have stones, they may be removed during ERCP.
- Gallbladder scintigraphy: This is also called a HIDA scan. This procedure uses a radioactive chemical or tracer to help the gallbladder show up clearly on a special screen. The tracer is injected into your IV.
- Percutaneous bile aspiration: This procedure is used to remove bile from your gallbladder using a thin, long needle. The sample of bile will be sent to a lab for tests. This procedure can also be used to decrease your symptoms.
- X-rays: Before surgery, caregivers may want to have an x-ray (picture) of your abdomen to see any other problems.
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 and side effects, have a high failure rate and the gallstones usually come back. Antibiotics can be used to treat any infections of the gallbladder. A low-fat diet may help to prevent attacks of pain. However, these alternatives will not cure the condition.
What Does The Operation Involve ?
The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic. Your surgeon will make a cut in the upper part of your abdomen and free up the gallbladder duct (cystic duct) and artery. They will then separate the gallbladder from the liver, and remove it.
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