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Keyhole surgery to take out an inflamed gallbladder

BMJ Group Medical Reference


This information is for people who have an inflamed gallbladder. It tells you about keyhole surgery to take out the gallbladder. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Does it work?

Yes. Having your gallbladder taken out through small cuts, called keyhole surgery, is the best treatment if your gallbladder is inflamed. [60] [61]

This operation gets rid of the inflammation. And it lets your digestive juices flow properly again. It should stop your pain and also stop you getting new gallstones. [62]

With this surgery, you may go home from hospital sooner than if you had a bigger operation called open surgery. [63]

Doctors call keyhole surgery to take out your gallbladder laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

What is it?

Sometimes, gallstones block the tubes that carry bile from the gallbladder to the bowel. This can make your gallbladder swell up and hurt. You will probably need treatment in hospital.

In keyhole surgery, your surgeon takes out your gallbladder. You can live a healthy life without it.

In the UK each year, surgeons do about 50,000 operations to take out gallbladders. [60] [64]

There are three ways to do surgery to take out your gallbladder:

  • Keyhole surgery. With this type, about four small cuts are made in your abdomen.

  • Open surgery. With this type, one large cut is made in your abdomen.

  • Mini-keyhole surgery. This type is a lot like keyhole surgery. But it uses even smaller cuts.

Here, we talk about the keyhole type. For more on the other types, see Open surgery to take out an inflamed gallbladder and Mini-keyhole surgery to take out an inflamed gallbladder.

Most people who have their gallbladder taken out have it done the keyhole way. This is what you can expect if you have keyhole surgery:

  • For this kind of surgery, you are given a general anaesthetic. This means that you are asleep and you won't feel anything.

  • Usually, surgeons make four small cuts in the abdomen and use tiny tools to see inside and do the surgery. But some surgeons use just three cuts, and others use five. [65]

  • The operation typically takes an hour and a half. [66] But it can last more than two hours. [67]

  • You will need to stay in hospital for three days to four days. [66] [68]

  • In up to 1 in 4 operations, the surgeon has to switch to a bigger operation, the open kind, part-way through. [63]

In keyhole surgery, one cut is made close to your belly button. This one is about 2 centimetres to 3 centimetres (about 1 inch) long. The other cuts are smaller. They are usually 0.5 centimetre to 1 centimetre (about one-quarter inch to one-half inch) long.

Last Updated: November 23, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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