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The surgery to remove the gallbladder is called a cholecystectomy (chol-e-cys-tec-toe-mee). The gallbladder is removed through a 5 to 8 inch long incision, or cut, in your abdomen. During an open cholecystectomy, the cut is made just below your ribs on the right side and goes to just below your waist.

A less invasive way to remove the gallbladder is called laparoscopic cholecystectomy. This surgery uses a laparoscope (an instrument used to see the inside of your body) to remove the gallbladder. It is performed through several small incisions rather than through one large incision, usually 4 incisions, each one inch or less in length.

A cholecystectomy may be used to treat some cases of: 

  • Gallbladder cancer. 
  • Cholelithiasis (gallstones within the gallbladder). 
  • Choledocholithiasis (gallstones within the bile duct). 
  • Cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder). 
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).

A cholecystectomy can be done in a few different ways, including:

  • Simple Cholecystectomy: The gallbladder and some of the surrounding tissue is removed.This is used in cases of early-stage cancers or non-cancerous issues. The procedure can be done open or laparoscopically:
    • Open Cholecystectomy: The gallbladder is removed through a large (about 6 inch)abdominal incision (cut). This is not the preferred method when cancer is known or suspected. Most patients will have an extended cholecystectomy in these cases (see below).
    • Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy: Many small incisions (cuts) are made in the belly. A laparoscope (lighted tube), placed through the incisions, is used to remove the gallbladder. This method is not used when gallbladder cancer is known or suspected.
  • Extended (Radical) Cholecystectomy: Often, an extended cholecystectomy is used for patients with gallbladder cancer to decrease the risk of recurrence. This involves removing the gallbladder, part of the liver, and several lymph nodes. In some cases, a more extensive operation may be needed to remove any of the following: larger portion of the liver (wedge resection), an entire liver lobe (hepatic lobectomy), the common bile duct, certain ligaments, additional lymph nodes, the pancreas, the duodenum and any other areas where disease is found.