Gallstones and Gallbladder Surgery
The gallbladder is small non-vital pear-shaped organ located in the abdomen. Its main function is to store and release bile, a fluid produced by your liver responsible for breaking down fats in the foods you eat. Your gallbladder transports bile to the small intestine where it helps the digestion process. If you are having problems with your gallbladder there is good reason to believe you may have gallstones that form when substances in bile crystallize and become solid.
Some gallstones may cause no symptoms while others may cause indigestion, nausea, painful attacks and even more serious problems if the stones move into nearby ducts and block the outflow of bile. If you do suffer from gallstones the best way to remove them and prevent new ones from developing is to have your gallbladder removed. You will be able to live a healthy life without your gallbladder.
How Do I Know If I Have Gallstones?
The most common sign of gallstones is a painful attack that often occurs after a meal. You may experience just one attack or frequent attacks. Other common signs of gallstones include:
- Severe pain or aching in the upper abdomen – constant or irregular
- Dull ache under the ribs or breastbone
- Back pain
- Right shoulder blade pain
- Nausea, upset stomach, heartburn or vomiting
Treating Gallbladder Problems
Approximately 50,000 gallbladder removal surgeries, also called cholecystectomies, are performed each year in Australia. A cholecystectomy is performed to address gallbladder pain, dysfunction, infection and tumours.
Gallbladder surgeries are performed in one of three ways:
- Open Cholecystectomy
- Standard Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy with Multiple Ports
- Cholecystectomy Single Incision Laparoscopic.
Which Surgery Is Right For Me?
The most important thing to remember is to share your symptoms with your doctor so you can collectively reach an understanding of your diagnosis and treatment options for your unique situation.
It is important to understand the difference between each surgery type. The most significant differentiator between each surgery is the incision size needed to access and remove the gallbladder. An open cholecystectomy involves, on average, a 150mm long incision; standard laparoscopy involves four 12mm or smaller incisions; and a next-generation laparoscopy, also known as the procedure, typically involves just a single 20-25mm incision. Pain and discomfort are more severe in open surgery and mild or minimal in most laparoscopic procedure. In all of the surgeries, your risk of complication is rare and conversions to an open procedure from laparoscopy are also infrequent. Most cholecystectomy procedures are short, lasting 90 minutes or less.
Traditional Open Surgery
Prior to the development of laparoscopic surgery for the removal of the gallbladder, the procedure was conducted by open surgery with a larger incision just below the ribs on the right side of the abdomen. Presently, a surgeon may opt to remove the gallbladder via open surgery if tests show the gallbladder has severe inflammation or infection. If these conditions are known in advance, an open surgery is planned; however, if these problems are discovered during a laparoscopic procedure, the surgeon must convert to open surgery and make a larger incision. Recovery from open surgery usually requires 3 to 5 days in the hospital.
Standard Laparoscopic Surgery
More than 90 percent of all cholecystectomies performed in Australia are done laparoscopically. Laparoscopic surgeries generally result in better quality-of-life outcomes than open surgery. In many cases patients can go home the same day after a laparoscopic procedure, whereas open surgery typically requires a 3 to 5 day stay. Based on these factors alone, it is likely that you and your surgeon will decide that standard or next-generation laparoscopic surgery is right for your unique case. With standard laparoscopic surgery only small incisions are needed to insert the scope and other surgical instruments in contrast to open surgery which uses single, larger incision to reach the gall bladder.
The Latest “Single Incision Surgery”
The Single Incision procedure is the latest advancement in laparoscopic surgery, performed through a single incision in the belly button. By utilizing just one point of access, the Single Incision surgery avoids the multiple points of entry that accompany standard laparoscopic surgery. Surgeons may apply the Single Incision procedure to appendix and kidney removals. Other urologic, bariatric and gynaecologic procedures can also be performed.
The Single Incision Advantage
The pain and discomfort often associated with any type of surgery is typically not caused by the procedure itself, but rather from the incision size and resulting cut(s) involved in gaining access to the problem area or site of the surgery. Thus, the Single Incision procedures – utilizing only one incision – may offer a number of advantages over standard laparoscopy and open surgical procedures, including the elimination of the scars and wound pain that accompany the additional site of entry. Instead of requiring, the four 12mm smaller incisions associated with traditional laparoscopic surgery that may leave visible scars, this is accomplished with a single 20-25mm incision through the belly button resulting in the potential for no visible scar.
Robotic Single Incision Surgery
Single Incision surgery can now be performed using the da Vinci Robotic System. The da Vinci Robotic system, provides a magnified 3D High Definition view of the operative field allowing enhanced vision and precision. Patients who choose da Vinci Robotic Single Incision Surgery experience virtually scar-less results along with minimum pain.
Overview Of Surgical Risks
Any surgical procedure involves risks. Potential problems could include:
- Continued abdominal pain
- Injury to adjacent organs
- Bile duct injury
- Need for further surgery or endoscopic procedures