If you have painful gallstones, your doctor will likely recommend a surgical treatment called cholecystectomy. It’s natural to feel nervous about having surgery. But despite its intimidating name, cholecystectomy is a common procedure with a low risk of complications.
When you have gallbladder surgery at Scripps, you’ll receive outstanding care from some of San Diego’s leading surgeons. We offer the latest minimally invasive techniques, including robotic cholecystectomy and single-site cholecystectomy.
Before you have surgery, it’s important to understand what to expect before, during and after your procedure. Learn more about cholecystectomy, including why it’s performed and what types are available.
Cholecystectomy is the medical term for surgery to remove your gallbladder, a small organ on the upper right side of your abdomen.
Most people have their gallbladder removed because of a medical condition called gallstones (cholelithiasis). Gallstones are not only painful, they can cause complications. These include:
- Gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis)
- Pancreas inflammation (pancreatitis)
- Bile duct stones (choledocholithiasis)
Removing your gallbladder is the only way to cure gallstones. Even though your gallbladder plays a role in digestion, it’s not a vital organ – you can live without it.
Scripps offers many types of cholecystectomy surgery, including the latest minimally invasive techniques that may reduce pain and recovery time. These include:
- Open cholecystectomy is the traditional technique used to remove the gallbladder. Your surgeon accesses your gallbladder through a long cut (incision) on the right side of your abdomen, just below your ribs.
- Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is a minimally invasive procedure that uses four tiny incisions (instead of one large incision). Your surgeon guides a thin, flexible tube mounted with a tiny camera, as well as special surgical tools, through these incisions. The camera allows your surgeon to see inside your abdomen while detaching and removing your gallbladder.
- Robotic cholecystectomy is nearly identical to laparoscopic cholecystectomy. However, during robotic surgery, your surgeon doesn’t hold surgical instruments in his or her hands. Instead, the instruments are attached to robotic arms, which your surgeon controls from a nearby computer console.
- Single-site robotic cholecystectomy allows your surgeon to remove your gallbladder through a single, tiny incision hidden in your navel.
Not everyone is a candidate for minimally invasive surgery. Your doctor will help you understand which surgical options are best for you.
Many people across San Diego County have had robotic cholecystectomy at Scripps. Learn more about this minimally invasive alternative to open surgery.
All minimally invasive surgical procedures require fewer, or smaller, incisions. But robotic cholecystectomy is different from laparoscopic cholecystectomy. It uses robotic technology to increase precision and control, and to greatly magnify the gallbladder and surrounding tissue.
During robotic cholecystectomy, surgical instruments (and a tiny camera) are attached to robotic arms. These arms are controlled by a specially trained surgeon from a nearby computer console.
As your surgeon moves his or her hand, wrist and fingers, the robotic arms perform the same movements in real time. Not only do the robotic arms mimic delicate movements, they can bend and rotate in ways a human hand cannot.
The computer console also displays a high-definition, close-up view of the surgical site. Throughout the procedure, your surgeon can see inside your body in three dimensions. This is another key difference – during laparoscopic cholecystectomy, surgeons only have a two-dimensional view of the surgical field.
Depending on the type of robotic cholecystectomy you’re having, your surgeon may remove your gallbladder through an abdominal incision or your belly button.
In most cases, people who have a robot-assisted cholecystectomy can return home the same day they have surgery. You may be able to resume normal activity within one week.
In comparison, people who have an open cholecystectomy may need to stay in the hospital for two to three days following their procedure. And recovery can take four to six weeks.
Everyone recovers differently following surgery. Your recovery time will depend on several factors, including your age, overall health and the type of cholecystectomy you had.
It’s important to check with your health plan before having any surgical procedure. Many, but not all, insurance companies cover robotic surgery (including robotic cholecystectomy).
Those that do cover robotic surgery often categorize it as “robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery.” In most cases, if your plan covers minimally invasive surgery, it will also cover robot-assisted surgical procedures.
Robotic cholecystectomy surgery may not be appropriate for all patients. Talk to your surgeon about all your treatment options, including the risks and benefits of each.
If you’re a candidate for minimally invasive gallbladder surgery and prefer a robotic approach, you’ll find the ideal combination of experience and expertise at Scripps.
Our specially trained surgeons have performed minimally invasive robotic surgery in San Diego for more than a decade. We use the da Vinci Surgical System – the most established and widely studied robot-assisted surgical system on the market.
In addition to offering the latest generation of da Vinci devices, Scripps surgeons use the latest surgical methods – including single-site robotic cholecystectomy. This procedure allows your surgeon to remove your gallbladder through a single incision in your navel. The hidden incision is so small, most people heal without any visible scar.
Equally important, our surgeons are required to undergo continuous, highly specialized training in robot-assisted techniques. If you or a loved one are planning to have robotic cholecystectomy surgery at Scripps, you can count on us to provide care that is both safe and effective.