Your gallbladder is a small sac located in the upper-right part of your abdomen just under the liver. It stores a digestive fluid called bile from your liver and releases it into your small intestine. You can develop gallstones when bile in the gallbladder hardens into stone-like material. These stones can range in size from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. You may have one large stone, hundreds of small ones or a combination of large and small stones.
When gallstones block the normal flow of bile, your gallbladder can become inflamed. Over time, this inflammation can cause severe damage or infection in the gallbladder, liver or pancreas. Warning signs include fever, jaundice (yellow skin and eyes) and persistent pain in the upper right abdomen lasting from 30 minutes to several hours. You also may feel pain in the back between your shoulder blades or in your right shoulder.
If you have the following symptoms, you should seek immediate medical care:
- Pain lasting more than five hours
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever (including low-grade) or chills
- Yellowish color of your skin or the whites of your eyes
- Clay-colored stools
People who have frequent gallbladder attacks or who show signs of infection may require surgery to remove the gallbladder.
Each year, more than 50,000 people have their gallbladders removed, making it one of the most common surgeries performed in the United States. Originally, surgeons had to use an open procedure that involved a large incision and increased pain, scarring and recovery time for patients. Then in 1985, doctors started using laparoscopic surgery to remove gallbladders.
Laparoscopic gallbladder surgery used special instruments inserted through three or four small incisions (also called ports). This technique proved very successful and allowed patients to return to normal activities much faster than open surgery. Then in 2007, doctors pioneered another advance in the surgery – using one incision through the belly button.
How It Works
Surgeons who perform single-port gallbladder surgery must undergo additional training in the technique. Because all of the surgical instruments go through one incision, doctors use instruments that are angled to ensure the surgeon has a good field of vision for the surgery. As with traditional laparoscopic surgery, the patient’s abdomen is inflated using carbon dioxide, which allows the surgeons to work more easily in the space.
The surgeon uses the instruments to move and hold organs near the gallbladder out of the way. Then, using a special cutting tool, the gallbladder is gently cut from its position and removed through the belly button. The surgeon ensures that all bleeding is controlled before removing all the instruments and closing up the incision in the belly button.
Should problems occur during the surgery, the surgeon has the option to change to a traditional laparoscopic or an open surgery. With all surgeries, the focus is on patient safety and ensuring the best outcome with the fewest number of complications.
Advantages of Single-Port Surgery
The results of single-port gallbladder removal are very similar to traditional laparoscopic surgery. Both procedures take a little more than an hour to perform, require less anesthesia than open surgery and result in less shoulder and abdominal pain after the surgery. One study noted that single-port surgery patients return to normal activity about two days earlier than patients who have open surgery. In some cases, the patient may be able to return home within hours after the surgery. Having single-port surgery through the belly button also means virtually no scars since the incision is hidden in the folds of the navel.
“In my experience, I find that my patients are happier with their incision and experience less overall pain with the single-port approach” explains Chris J. Cottrell, MD, FACS, a general surgeon on staff atLakePointeMedicalCenter.
For a FREE referral to a physician on staff at Lake Pointe Medical Center, contact 1-866-525-LPMC (5762) or visit our website at lakepointemedical.com. You can also download our new smartphone mobile application – Mobile Health for Mobile Families.
Submitted by Lake Pointe Health Network.
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