The gallbladder sits under the liver and acts as a storage vessel for some of the bile made by the liver.  It’s function is limited to contracting at meal times to inject more bile into the bowel to aid digestion.  Due to chemical imbalances, stones can often form inside the gallbladder (“gallstones”). 

These can be primarily based on cholesterol or on bilirubin.  Around 10-30% of all people have gallstones, usually without symptoms.  Once formed, gallstones remain in place unless they pass through the bile ducts into the bowel to be excreted.  Gallstones can cause severe pain (biliary colic) when they block contraction of the gallbladder or may cause acute inflammation of the gallbladder (acute cholecystitis).  They may also pass into the common bile duct causing jaundice or pancreatitis and other problems.

Gallstones and Gallbladder Anatomy


Common reasons for Gallbladder Surgery

  • Biliary Colic symptoms (see below)*
  • An attack of “cholecystitis”, or inflamed gallbladder
  • Acute pancreatitis caused by gallstones
  • Stones dropping into the common bile duct causing pain, jaundice or infection
  • Gallbladder polyps (growths) over 1cm in size

*Biliary colic symptoms

Biliary colic is severe pain that is felt in the upper abdomen, sometimes around the right side, even to the back and is often brought on by a meal.   It resolves by itself after a period of time which could be several hours.  Once attacks occur, they are likely to re-occur.



The operation (cholecystectomy)

Gallbladder surgery is quite common these days and done in almost every case with keyhole surgery (laparoscopic cholecystectomy).  During the operation a picture of the main bile duct is usually obtained to look for any stones which may have fallen down and become lodged in the duct. 

Complications from the operation do not occur often and may include bleeding, bile leakage rom the liver or rarely damage to the main bile duct which would need further treatment.  Usually a one night stay in hospital is sufficient.  One week off work is usually sufficient for recovery and a month for strenuous activities.   There are no dietary changes required after gallbladder removal and rarely any significant ongoing side effects. 


If you would like to discuss the Cholecystectomy in more detail please call (03) 9958 3000 to make an appointment with our surgeon, Mr Anthony Clough.