Gallbladder Removal

Royal Free Hospital’s HPB surgeons frequently perform gallbladder removal surgery, also known as cholecystectomy. We specialise in laparoscopic (keyhole) gallbladder surgery, although the procedure can also be performed via open surgery when required, most often carried out due to problems associated with gallstones.

Our expert consultants treat both NHS and private patients. Supported by our team of dedicated and highly-skilled nurses, we take pride in providing an excellent level of care for all patients, with a 24/7 consultant-led service.

What is the gallbladder?

The gallbladder is a small organ in the upper right abdomen. Its key function is to store bile, which is produced by the liver and used to help the body digest food. However, the gallbladder is not an essential organ and we are able to survive and live healthily without it. For that reason, gallbladder removal is usually recommended when it is causing problems that are impacting on your general health and quality of life.

The most common reason for gallbladder removal is problems with gallstones. Gallstones are very common and do not always cause symptoms or require treatment. However, in some cases, gallstones can cause blockages, pancreatitis and severe pain and discomfort.

What happens when you have your gallbladder removed?

Removing the gallbladder does not impact the body’s ability to function healthily. Your body will still produce enough bile, and you should be able to resume eating a normal, healthy, balanced diet as you did before.

Gallbladder removal can be performed via laparoscopic (keyhole) techniques, or via open surgery. Both procedures are carried out under general anaesthetic.

  • Laparoscopic gallbladder removalThis means a number of small (keyhole) incisions will be made in the upper abdomen. The surgeon will use a laparoscope (a thin tube with a light and camera at the end) to remove the gallbladder. Scarring and recovery times are generally considerably reduced compared with open surgery. Depending what time your surgery takes place, you may be able to go home later the same day or the following day. Most people are able to resume work and regular daily activities within two weeks, although your surgeon will advise you on how long to wait before returning to things like strenuous exercise.
  • Open gallbladder surgery/cholecystectomyIn some cases, open surgery may be required, which means a bigger single incision will be made. Recovery times are generally slightly longer with open surgery, and you may need to stay in hospital for up to a few nights. It can take 6-8 weeks to fully return to work and regular daily activities following open abdominal surgery.

If you need gallbladder removal surgery, whether the procedure can be performed with laparoscopic or open surgery may depend on a number of factors, including your general health and age. Our specialists can advise on the most suitable course of treatment for you, and we will do our best to ensure all patients feel fully informed and well supported every step of the way.

Whatever treatment you require, our specialist consultants and nurses will work together to ensure your stay is as comfortable as possible, and that you have all the aftercare information and advice you need before you go home. When required, we will also arrange follow-ups, and our team is on hand 24/7 should you require any further advice.