Gall bladder stone: Is surgery necessary?


The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ and quite essential for the optimal functioning of the body’s digestive system. It acts as the reservoir of bile that is required to breakdown the nutrients and fat in the food. Gallstones are formed when the bile, bilirubin or cholesterol gets deposited in the bile duct. This may obstruct the flow of bile from the gallbladder to the small intestine.

Gallbladder stones may vary in size and complexity. While smaller gallstones can be eliminated through urine, larger gallstones may require surgical removal. Acute cases of gallstones may warrant the entire gallbladder to be removed surgically. In such cases, the liver may step in to carry out the gallbladder’s functions.

Research and studies have highlighted that more than 80% of individuals with gallstones will need surgical procedures. There are two categories of gallbladder stone treatment; open surgery, and laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

Open Surgery: This surgery requires a deeper incision of 5 to 7 inches in the upper abdomen. This type of surgery is recommended for individuals with acute bleeding disorders. Women in their last trimester of pregnancy, obese individuals are also recommended to undergo this surgery.

Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy: This is alternatively referred to as the keyhole surgery and as the name suggests it requires a much smaller incision as compared to the open surgery. The surgeon inserts a thin tube with light and video equipment into the abdominal area under the surgical administration to have clear visibility. Then, special tools are inserted to remove the diseased gallbladder.

Both open and laparoscopic surgeries require administration of general anesthesia, eliminating the feeling of pain during the surgical procedure.

Is surgery necessary?

Most cases of gallstones do not require surgical intervention. However, if the stone is comparatively larger, complex, and results in acute abdominal pain that lasts for hours, then surgery becomes a must.

Gallstones won’t go away on their own. If they are not excreted through the urine, surgical procedure is required. Gallstones if left untreated may lead to more serious conditions such as cholecystitis (an inflamed gallbladder), pancreatitis (an inflamed pancreas), and cholangitis (an inflamed bile duct).

What to expect before surgery?

Surgery to remove the malfunctioning gallbladder might not be always necessary. Before arriving at the decision to go for the surgery, doctors ask for a blood test, ultrasound, endoscopic ultrasonography, and an MRI HIDA (HepatobiliaryIminodiacetic acid) scan.

What are the risks associated with gallbladder surgery?

According to healthcare professionals and experts, gallbladder surgery is safe. However, some contingencies may arise such as

  • Problems due to the administration of general anesthesia
  • The surgery may give rise to certain infections
  • Bleeding is a major concern associated with gallstone removal surgery especially in individuals with a bleeding disorder.
  • Individuals may experience swelling in certain body parts as an aftereffect of the surgery
  • Surgery might increase the risks of damage to the small intestine and bile duct.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition of blood clots near the calf region in the lower limbs. This is one of the drastic risks associated with gallbladder removal surgery.
  • Surgery may make the individual prone to heart problems and pneumonia.

What is the recovery outlook?

The healing and recovery post-surgery vary from individual to individual depending on their age, gender, allied health conditions, kind of surgery undertaken, etc. In the cases of open surgery, the patient might need to stay more than a week at the hospital under observation and the recovery process may take somewhere between 6 to 8 weeks. As laparoscopic surgery does not involve deeper incisions and is relatively pain-free, patients can be back to their normal routine within 2 weeks.

Got more questions on gallbladder surgery? Turn into the experts at Narayana Health, today!