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Signs you need your gallbladder removed

There are several reasons someone may need to have their gallbladder removed—a procedure called a cholecystectomy. Here are some common reasons:

  • Gallstones, the most common reason for gallbladder removal, are small, hard deposits that form in the gallbladder and can cause inflammation, pain, and other complications.
  • Gallbladder disease is any condition that affects the gallbladder, including inflammation (cholecystitis) or infection (cholecystitis). In some cases, these conditions can lead to surgery.
  • Biliary dyskinesia is a condition where the gallbladder does not empty properly and can lead to pain and other symptoms. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the gallbladder.
  • Gallstones can block the pancreatic duct, leading to inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis can cause severe pain and other complications, and in some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the gallbladder.
  • Gallbladder cancer, although rare, can occur, and in some cases, the treatment may involve surgery to remove the gallbladder.

What are the risks of gallbladder removal?

Like any surgical procedure, gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy) carries some risks. However, complications after this surgery are generally rare, and most people recover without any problems. Potential risks associated with gallbladder removal:

  • Infection: Infection is always a risk with any surgical procedure. However, the risk of infection after gallbladder removal is generally low.
  • Bleeding: There is a small risk of bleeding during or after the surgery. In most cases, bleeding is mild and can be easily managed.
  • Injury to nearby organs: In rare cases, surgery to remove the gallbladder can cause harm to nearby organs, such as the liver or bile ducts.
  • Digestive problems: Some people may experience digestive problems after gallbladder removal, including diarrhea and bloating. These symptoms usually go away over time as the body adjusts.
  • Chronic diarrhea: In some cases, people may develop chronic diarrhea after gallbladder removal. This occurs when the body has trouble digesting fats, leading to loose stools.
  • Post-cholecystectomy syndrome: In a small number of cases, people may experience persistent abdominal pain after gallbladder removal. This is known as post-cholecystectomy syndrome and can be difficult to treat.

How long does gallbladder removal take?

The length of a gallbladder removal surgery can vary depending on the method of surgery used and the complexity of the case. On average, a laparoscopic cholecystectomy takes about one to two hours to complete.

Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is the most common type of gallbladder removal surgery. In this procedure, the surgeon will make several small incisions in the abdomen and use a tiny camera and instruments to remove the gallbladder.

In some cases, an open cholecystectomy may be necessary. This involves making a larger incision in the abdomen and removing the gallbladder through the incision. An open cholecystectomy generally takes longer than a laparoscopic cholecystectomy and can take up to several hours to complete.

What is recovery from gallbladder removal like?

Regardless of the type of surgery, gallbladder removal is usually performed as an outpatient procedure, which means the patient can go home the same day as the surgery or the next day. Recovery time after gallbladder removal varies depending on the individual and the type of surgery, but most people can return to normal activities within a week or two after the surgery.

What are the long-term side effects of gallbladder removal?

Many people experience relief from the symptoms that led to the surgery, such as pain and discomfort from gallstones. However, there are a few potential long-term side effects that some people may experience after gallbladder removal:

  • Digestive problems: The gallbladder plays a role in the digestion of fats, so some people may experience digestive issues after gallbladder removal. This can include diarrhea, bloating, and indigestion. However, these symptoms are usually mild and fade over time as the body adjusts.
  • Increased risk of colon cancer: Some studies have suggested that people who have their gallbladder removed may have a slightly increased risk of colon cancer. However, this is still an area of ongoing research, and the overall risk is considered low.
  • Difficulty digesting certain foods: Without a gallbladder, the body may have trouble digesting certain types of foods, such as high-fat or fried foods, leading to discomfort or diarrhea.
  • Increased risk of bile duct injury: In rare cases, removing the gallbladder can cause damage to the bile ducts, leading to long-term problems such as jaundice or chronic pain.
  • Post-cholecystectomy syndrome: In some cases, people may experience persistent abdominal pain after gallbladder removal. This is known as post-cholecystectomy syndrome, and it can be difficult to treat.


It's important to note that these long-term side effects are relatively rare, and most people with their gallbladder removed do not experience any long-term complications. If you have concerns about the long-term side effects of gallbladder removal, it's always best to discuss them with your primary care provider.

Our experienced, board-certified gastroenterologists serve patients throughout the Greater Houston area. No matter where you live or which location you choose, you can trust that we will provide the same patient-centered standards of quality care to everyone.

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