Gallstones are small stones made up of cholesterol or bilirubin (pigment of the bile) that can form in your gallbladder. Gall bladder is a small pear shaped organ located just below the stomach. It stores bile, a digestive fluid that helps to break down fatty foods. Gallstones are the most commonly occurring disorder of the gallbladder. Women, adults, and obese people are more likely to get gallstones.
People who have gallstones may experience nausea, vomiting, or pain in the abdomen, back, or just below the right arm. The exact cause of gallstones is not clear, but it is known that gallstones may result when bile contains too much cholesterol, too much bilirubin, or when the gallbladder does not empty completely.
Your doctor may recommend imaging tests to diagnose gallstones. An abdominal ultrasound may be done to look for signs of gallstones. A hepatobiliary iminodiacetic acid (HIDA) scan where in a special dye is injected to highlight the bile ducts may be ordered to diagnose obstruction of bile ducts. Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is used to discover and remove the gallstones.
Gallstones that do not cause any symptoms do not require any treatment. Your doctor may recommend surgery to remove your gallbladder (cholecystectomy) if your symptoms occur frequently. Cholecystectomy is a surgical procedure to remove gallbladder. It is either performed laparoscopically or through open surgery.
Open or traditional surgery: This procedure is performed under general anaesthesia, and your surgeon makes a single large incision in your abdomen. Surgical instruments are inserted through this incision, muscles and tissues are pulled back to expose liver and gallbladder, and then the gallbladder is removed. Later the incision is sutured and you need to be in the hospital for almost 2 weeks, after which you will be able to go home.
Laparoscopic surgery or keyhole surgery: In this procedure, a surgeon makes several small incisions in your abdomen. Through one of the incisions, a laparoscope a small fibre-optic tube with a tiny camera is inserted into the abdomen. Special surgical instruments are inserted through the other incisions to remove the gallbladder. Through this approach, your surgeon will be able to view the surgery on a large screen.
During this procedure, cholangiography (X-ray of the bile duct) is taken to look bile duct for any abnormalities. And if your surgeon finds stones in the bile duct, they can also be removed.
Some of the possible complications after cholecystectomy include bleeding, blood clots, wound infection, bile leakage into the abdomen, and injury to the bile duct, intestine, and blood vessels. However, these complications are mild and can be treated.
Advantages of laparoscopic surgery over open surgery
Laparoscopic surgery requires minimal recovery time, shorter hospital stay, and less pain and discomfort after surgery.
Open surgery requires longer hospital stay and recovery time and requires longer time to operate, and causes a large scar.