What is the Recovery Time After Gallbladder Surgery?

What is the average recovery time after gallbladder removal?


Removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) is a procedure that has improved dramatically over the past couple of decades due to advances in medical technology. Traditionally, surgeons made a large incision in the right side of the abdomen to remove the gallbladder. Although the procedure itself didn't last very long, gallbladder surgery recovery was lengthy because of the time needed for the intestines to recover after an abdominal operation. Patients typically would stay in the hospital for several days to a week after such an operation because of pain and inflammation.

The advent of laparoscopic technology brought major changes in the way many abdominal operations, including gallbladder removal, are performed. In laparoscopic surgery, doctors make a number of small incisions and then, working through tubes inserted into those incisions, use miniature cameras to view the area and tiny surgical tools to perform the procedure.

Cholecystectomy using the laparoscopic approach was introduced in the early 1980s and quickly became the preferred way of performing this procedure. Patients recover much more quickly and are usually discharged the next day. In fact, many surgeons now perform this procedure in the morning and send the patient home that same day if he or she feels well enough. After a couple of days of rest at home, most patients can resume their regular activities.

The incidence of complications and death with laparoscopic cholecystectomy is also less than that with the traditional approach. However, surgical injury to the bile ducts is slightly more common with laparoscopy, especially when the operation is performed by a surgeon inexperienced in laparoscopic techniques. This is because it is more difficult to "see" the bile duct structure than in traditional, open surgery. Also, in a few percent of cases, doctors may have to switch to open surgery if the structure of a patient's gallbladder or ducts is unusual. Overall, laparoscopic cholecystectomy (when performed by an experienced surgeon) is the safer approach to gallbladder removal, with a more rapid recovery time.


by Ronen Arai