OSF Medical Group

Cholecystecomy (Gallbladder Removal)

Surgeon in operating room Cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of the gallbladder and may be necessary when gallstones form in the gallbladder and block the flow of bile to the small intestines, or the gallbladder is not working as it should. Bile aids in the digestion of fats and food.

You may need to undergo a cholecystectomy if you have:

  • Gallstones in the gallbladder (cholelithiasis) or the bile duct (choledocholithiasis)
  • Inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis) or pancreas (pancreatitis)
  • A burst or leaking gallbladder (perforated gallbladder), which is rare but can be life threatening


Typically, the most noticeable symptom is abdominal pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen all the way up to the right shoulder or sharp abdominal pain on the right side. Other symptoms can include:

  • Jaundice
  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Fever
  • Vomiting

Preparing for Your Cholecystectomy

Our staff will explain the procedure to you and answer any questions you might have prior to surgery. You may receive a physical examination, including blood and urine tests, to ensure you are in good health for the procedure.

Please make sure to bring a complete list of all medications and herbal supplements you are currently taking with you to your appointment.

Please let our staff know if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Pregnant or suspect you are pregnant
  • Allergic to medications, latex, tape, or anesthetics
  • History of bleeding disorders or are taking a blood thinner, aspirin, or other medications that affect blood clotting

What to Expect

You will be asked to remove any jewelry or objects that interfere with the surgery as well as your clothing; you will be given a surgical gown to wear. A member of our staff will start an intravenous (IV) line in one of your arms.

The surgery is performed with the patient lying on their back while they are under general anesthesia. An anesthesiologist will monitor your vital signs including heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and blood oxygen levels during the surgery.

Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy

During laparoscopic cholecystectomy, the surgeon will make four small incisions in your abdomen to access the gallbladder.

The first incision will be for the port; once inserted, it will inflate the abdomen with carbon dioxide gas to allow the surgeon to see more clearly and maneuver more easily. The laparoscope, which has a light and a camera on the end, is inserted in another incision.

The remaining incisions are for surgical instruments used to remove the gallbladder.

The gallbladder is removed through one of the incisions and the carbon dioxide gas is allowed to escape from the port. The incisions will be closed with sutures, staples, or steri-strips.

This procedure typically takes one to two hours to complete.In some cases, the surgeon will start with the laparoscopic method and need to switch to the open cholecystectomy technique.

Open Method

In an open cholecystectomy, an incision approximately six inches long is made in the upper right side of the abdomen. After the gallbladder has been located, it will be tied off with sutures and removed.

The incision will then be closed with staples or sutures. A drain may be placed inside the incision before being closed. However, it will be removed before you leave the hospital.

This procedure typically takes one to two hours to complete.


You may spend approximately one hour or longer in the recovery room before you are taken back to your room either in the ambulatory care unit or on the medical/surgical floor.

While in the recovery room, your surgeon usually meets with your family to let them know how you are doing and to answer any questions they may have. Your family will meet you in your room.

Depending on which procedure was performed, the patient will remain in a hospital room or discharged to be taken home.

You must be alert, take fluids without vomiting, and urinate before discharge. Your nurse will give you written discharge instructions based on your surgeon's orders.

Do not drive or drink alcohol for 24 hours after your surgery. Patients cannot be discharged unaccompanied via taxicab or public transportation. Please plan to have a competent caregiver available to stay with you and assist you the day and night of surgery.

Patients who undergo laparoscopic cholecystectomy may be allowed to go home the same day as the surgery; however, it is sometimes necessary for a one-night hospital stay. Typically, it takes about a week or two to fully recover from this procedure.

For patients who have the open cholecystectomy procedure, expect to spend two or three days in the hospital recovering. Once at home, it may take four to six weeks to fully recover.

At the time of discharge, you will be be given a prescription for pain medication. If you have any questions or concerns during your stay, please ask your nurse.

Follow Up

Arrangements for a follow-up appointment with our staff will be made upon discharge.