A cholecystectomy is a surgical procedure used to remove the gallbladder. It is the most common treatment for gallstones. In most cases the gallbladder surgery is performed by a minimally invasive method known as laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Some children might require an open cholecystectomy. Both procedures are performed in the operating room under general anesthesia.
Laparoscopy, a minimally invasive surgical technique, may be used to remove your child’s gallbladder via the abdomen. In a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, the surgeon makes several small incisions in your child’s abdomen. In one incision, a small scope (or camera) is placed to allow the surgeon to see all of the abdominal organs. Small surgical tools are placed in 2 to 3 other incisions. The abdomen is filled with gas during the procedure to allow the surgeon to see easily.
The surgeon then uses these tools to remove the gallbladder through a small incision inside your child’s belly button. DERMABOND (skin glue) will cover the incisions. When this minimally invasive method is used, your child should have less pain after surgery and a shorter stay in the hospital than when having open gallbladder surgery.
In some situations your child may require an open cholecystectomy. The surgeon will make an incision in your child’s right upper abdomen and remove the gallbladder. Your child’s incision will be closed with dissolvable stitches under the skin edges. A strip of tape or DERMABOND (skin glue) will cover the incision. Compared to the laparoscopic cholecystectomy, open gallbladder surgery will require a slightly longer hospital stay. During this time, our surgical team and nursing staff will monitor your child closely to manage any post-operative pain and ensure a smooth recovery.
After the operation
After the operation, your child will go to the recovery room until she is awake and comfortable. She will then go to a hospital room. Your child will receive IV fluids until she is able to drink clear liquids without nausea or vomiting, and will slowly advance to a regular diet. We may give your child antibiotics through an IV to prevent infection. Pain medication will also go through the IV at first. When your child is eating, she can take pain medication by mouth.
Soon after surgery your child will need to get out of bed and begin to walk and move around. This helps to relieve gas pain that is common after gallbladder surgery. It also helps your child heal faster. If the procedure was done laparoscopically, your child will go home the next day. If your child had open gallbladder surgery, she will be discharged from the hospital in approximately 2 to 4 days. Your child’s surgeon and care team will discuss her recovery and expected discharge with the family.
Risks and complications
- Bile leak
- Bile duct injury
When to call your doctor
Please call the Division of Pediatric General, Thoracic and Fetal Surgery at 215-590-2730 if your child has any of the following symptoms:
- Fever (a temperature of 101.5 degrees or higher)
- Increase in pain
- Any signs of infection, including redness, swelling and/or drainage at incision site(s)
- Any further questions or concerns