The removal of the gallbladder, also known as cholecystectomy, is done when a diagnosis has been made of gallstones that have become symptomatic, or because of a poorly-functioning or non-functioning gallbladder.
Normally the gallbladder will store bile (made in the liver) and release that bile into the intestines after a meal to aid in digestion of fatty foods in particular. Without the gallbladder, bile will still be produced but it will trickle into the intestines more regularly than being stored in the gallbladder. As a result of this change in the flow of bile, some patients will have some changes in their bowel habits after their gallbladder is removed. This is usually well tolerated as your body adapts to this change over a period of time.
The gallbladder is usually removed laparoscopically, which involves making a few small one cm in length incisions and performing the surgery with the use of small instruments inserted through these small incisions. In cases of severe inflammation or infection of the gallbladder, or in rare cases where there are adhesions from prior surgery, it may be necessary to make a traditional larger incision under the right rib cage.
In most cases, patients that have a laparoscopic gallbladder removal will be sent home the same day. If the larger incision technique is needed, a two to three day hospitalization is required with a longer recovery period. All patients recovering from gallbladder surgery are asked not to do anything strenuous (including lifting anything over 10 lbs.) for four to six weeks after surgery.