Gallstone Removal Options
Each year more than 600,000 Americans have gallstone removal often involving removal of the entire gallbladder. Some people have gallstones but no symptoms. No treatment is needed as long as other organs like the gallbladder, pancreas or liver are not affected. For some people the condition can become life threatening. The gallbladder sends bile to the intestine to help with digestion, particularly the digestion of fats. If a gallstone blocks the common duct shared with the pancreas, the result is gallstone pancreatitis. An inflamed pancreas causes diarrhea, vomiting, and severe pain.
There are two options for gallbladder surgery-open or laparoscopic. Open surgery for gallstone removal requires that a 5 to 7 inch incision be made in the abdomen. The gallbladder is taken out. The surgeon will use a special dye to make sure there are no gallstones outside the gallbladder. People are able to live very well without a gallbladder. The second choice for gallstone removal is laparoscopic surgery. Three small incisions are made in the abdomen. The abdomen is inflated with air so the surgeon has room to maneuver. A camera is inserted. The surgeon sees inside the person via the camera. The other two incisions allow the surgeon to manipulate the surgical tools. Recovery from laparoscopic gallstone removal is faster than open surgery. Sometimes the surgeon is not able to complete the surgery using laparoscopy and must proceed to do open surgery. This happens in about 5 percent of the cases. With either procedure, the patient will be given intravenous nourishment. The next step in the diet after gallbladder surgery is for the patient to consume liquids. Solid foods are introduced next. After recovery, a gallbladder diet is one that avoids fatty foods, alcohol, and smoking. Since most gallstones are made of cholesterol, fatty foods are implicated in developing stones.