Gallbladder removal is one of the older and more common procedures in general surgery.
“The gallbladder is a little storage organ, so it is a bladder its located on the right side of the body on the right upper abdomen and it’s actually attached to the liver,” says Dr. Barry Haicken, general surgeon with Lee Memorial Health System.
Its sole purpose is to help digest fats. As part of this breakdown process, the system can get out of balance and form gallstones. It’s thought millions of people have them, but don’t know it until they present a problem.
“Nobody knows why they start to move or what stimulates them to start be a problem, but usually the pain starts when the gallstones start to drift to the outlet of the gallbladder and then they block it up,” says Dr. Haicken.
Early surgeries addressed the gallstones by removing them and left the gallbladder intact. In the years since, doctors realized a diseased gallbladder will continue to create new ones. Now the corrective procedure is to take out the gallbladder and its being done in increasingly smaller ways.
“Prior to 1990, surgeons removed gallbladders through a big open incision. Now we remove most gallbladders using laparoscopy,” says Dr. Haicken.
Operating through a few small holes, miniaturized tools including a tiny video camera are inserted into the abdomen.
“Using laparoscopy, we can see the gallbladder. Instruments have been perfected, so we now can remove the gallbladder in about 45 minutes - for most people as day surgery,” says Dr. Haicken.
The ever-shrinking procedure is constantly being fine-tuned, including number and size of incisions. Refreshing an old surgery to help patients recover faster with less pain.