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What Is a Cholecystectomy Incision?

By Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A cholecystectomy incision is a surgical opening in the body through which a patient's gallbladder is removed. Surgeons may also perform this procedure to remove gallstones, rather than the entire organ. There are two main surgical approaches: laparoscopic incisions or an open cholecystectomy. The laparoscopic technique utilizes multiple, smaller incisions, while the open surgery involves using one large incision.

On a daily basis, about three to five cups of bile is made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder, and it is secreted into the small intestine as needed to help digest foods. When gallstones form in the organ, they block the flow of bile and may cause the organ to become inflamed and infected. Since the gallbladder is located underneath the liver, a open cholecystectomy incision will be made in this area, on the upper right-hand side of the patient's torso. When laparoscopic surgery is used, these incisions will be located around the navel area.

To prepare for a cholecystectomy, patients should discuss the procedure with their surgeons. They should disclose their full medical history, and they will likely undergo blood tests and ultrasounds so that the surgeon can assess their general health. General anesthesia will be used so the patient will not feel pain during the cholecystectomy incision and the gallbladder removal.

With the laparoscopic technique, the surgeon will make four small incisions in the lower abdomen, near the navel. He will insert a tiny instrument into one of the incisions, which will inflate the abdomen with carbon dioxide. A laparoscope, which is a tiny video camera, is inserted through another cholecystectomy incision. Once the surgeon can clearly see the gallbladder with the laparoscope, other small instruments will be navigated to the area to remove the gallstones or gallbladder.

Sometimes, in more complicated surgeries, the surgeon may begin with laparoscopic incisions, and then will need to switch to an open surgery. This larger cholecystectomy incision will be located near the gallbladder. Once the gallbladder is removed, the surgeon will use sutures or surgical staples to close the incision. He may also insert a drain into the incision, which will be used temporarily to remove excess fluids from the area.

The recovery time for an open surgery is longer than a laparoscopic surgery. Patients who have laparoscopic surgery may stay in the hospital for 24 hours, before resting at home for the next one to two weeks. Those who have an open cholecystectomy incision may recover in the hospital for three to four days, before resting at home for four to six weeks.

Patients will need to care for the incisions at home while they heal. The doctor will instruct the patient on how often to change the dressings. They should always wash their hands well before touching the incision site. Patients should call their doctors if they notice thick, yellow discharge from the incisions, or increasing swelling and pain around the area. Sutures and staples will be removed by the doctor when the incisions heal, while surgical tape will fall off by itself within 10 days.

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