Gallbladder Removal Surgery: Causes, Procedure, and Recovery

4 min read
Gallbladder Removal Surgery: Causes, Procedure, and Recovery

To the right of your abdomen, directly beneath your liver, there’s a small pear-shaped organ known as your gallbladder. It sits there holding bile, a digestive fluid that is released into your small intestine. Sometimes you may develop a hardened deposit known as a gallstone. These can vary in size and number.

What is gallbladder removal surgery?

Gallbladder removal surgery is known as a cholecystectomy. This isn’t a surgery that most doctors will rush into. While it’s a common surgery, it’s still major surgery with some serious risks and complications. However, in most cases, you’ll go home the same day as you’ve had the surgery.


There are two types of gallbladder removal surgery: laparoscopic and open cholecystectomies.

  • Laparoscopic cholecystectomy: To perform this surgery, your doctor makes four small incisions inside your abdomen, then inserts a tiny video camera and uses special surgical tools to remove your gallbladder. 
  • Open cholecystectomy: Your doctor will make a single large incision through which they’ll remove your gallbladder.

What risks accompany gallbladder removal?

As with any surgery, a cholecystectomy has certain risks. Some of the risks that accompany this surgery include:

  • Leaking bile
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Injury to nearby structures such as the bile duct, liver, and small intestine
  • Risks from undergoing general anesthesia, such as blood clots and pneumonia


Whether you’ll experience any of these complications will depend on the general state of your overall health. The reason why you’re having a cholecystectomy will also factor in here.

How do you recover from this surgery?

How long it’ll take you to recover from a cholecystectomy will depend on whether you had a laparoscopic or open procedure. If you’ve had a laparoscopic procedure, you should be able to leave the hospital on the same day as you had your operation. Gallbladder removal recovery will then be somewhat of a speedy process. You should return to your normal activities within two weeks after the operation.


If you have open surgery, you should plan to stay in the hospital for three to five days. You should also realize that your recovery time will take longer. It may take anywhere from 6 and 8 weeks before you’ll be able to return to your normal activities.


Regardless of the type of surgery you have, you won’t be able to drive afterward, so you should arrange for someone to take you home from the hospital. It’s a good idea to also have this person stay with you for 24 hours if you go home the same day as you had your surgery because you may still be feeling the effects of anesthesia.

When is gallbladder removal surgery necessary?

If your gallstones do not cause any symptoms, then there’s no need to treat them. However, if you do experience symptoms, you may need to have your gallbladder removed. Some of the symptoms you may experience when you have gallstones include:

  • Sudden pain in the upper right side of your abdomen or in the center of your abdomen, directly below your breastbone that rapidly intensifies
  • Back pain located directly between your shoulder blades
  • Pain in your right shoulder
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting


Doctors don’t typically rush to remove your gallbladder. They’ll wait to see if you have more than one attack. However, surgery is the best way to prevent future attacks. If you do need surgery and you’re located near San Francisco, California, BASS Medical Group can help.  Their elite team is made up of doctors who are experts in their respective fields.  Call (925) 350-4044 to learn more or schedule an appointment.