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What is a Cholecystostomy?

By Marco Sumayao
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A cholecystostomy is a procedure in which a stoma, or hole, is surgically created in an individual's gallbladder. The stoma is meant to facilitate artificial drainage of the organ via a catheter. A cholecystostomy is generally recommended only when a cholecystectomy, or gallbladder removal, is believed to present too much of a health risk. The procedure is considered to be a temporary fix for gallbladder problems, needed only until the patient is in a good enough condition to undergo more serious surgical procedures.

Patients who suffer from cholecystitis, an inflammation of the gallbladder, generally need to undergo major surgery. The inflammation is often caused by tumors or a blockage of the organ's ducts by gallstones. In the case of tumors, doctors will need to surgically remove the growths as soon as possible. If the gallbladder cannot be salvaged, or if gallstones are found stuck in any of the bile ducts, the organ must be removed via cholecystectomy. Some patients, however, are found to be in no condition to undergo such major procedures and will require a cholecystostomy to manage the symptoms until surgery becomes a viable option.

Although a cholecystostomy is itself a surgical procedure, it is considered to present significantly fewer risks to the patient's health. The operation is minimally-invasive, and the only major incision made is located at the site of the created stoma. A catheter leading outside the body through the abdominal wall is later attached to the hole, which is sealed to prevent any possible internal leakage. The cholecystostomy is meant to allow bile and other possible fluids inside the gallbladder to drain safely from the organ. It is the accumulation of liquid inside the swollen gallbladder that causes much of the patient's discomfort.

It is important to perform a cholecystostomy if it is unsafe for the patient to undergo the more major surgical procedures. Not only does the buildup of liquid inside the gallbladder cause significant amounts of pain, but it is also possible for the organ to start leaking from the strain. The liquids might enter other organs or leak into the abdominal wall. This can cause jaundice, which is an unnatural yellowing of the skin, or other infections.

Managing a cholecystostomy post-procedure is a relatively simple task. The catheter is usually connected to an external bile bag, which will contain the drained liquids. The bag will need to be protected and drained regularly to prevent any possible backflow. The bag and catheter will be removed when the patient is found to be in a good enough condition for cholecystectomy.

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Discussion Comments
By anon253967 — On Mar 11, 2012

The bag is a problem when fastened to the leg. What other choices are available?

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