Your liver makes bile, litres of it per day. Your intestines use that bile to break down fats that you eat so you can digest and absorb them.
Your gallbladder stores bile so if you eat a cheeseburger or some ice cream, it can deliver a larger volume of bile into your intestines at any given time.
Many people form stones in their gallbladder over time. Most people do not get symptoms from those stones. If you start to develop symptoms from those stones, usually abdominal pain under ribs on the right side, they are likely to worsen over time. In that setting, it would be reasonable to consider having your gallbladder removed. Unfortunately there is no way to remove the stones without also removing the gallbladder.
An ultrasound is an excellent test for gallbladder stones. Your family doctor will arrange an ultrasound to check for stones prior to referral to a surgeon.
Gallbladder surgery is one of the most common operations that we do. It is done under a general anesthetic and you will go home the same day. The operation is done using a laparoscope (a telescope connected to a special camera ). Carbon dioxide is used to insufflate the abdominal cavity to provide working space. The gallbladder is then removed along with the stones inside of it. The operation takes about one hour. Down time for recovery and recuperation is one to two weeks.
Gallbladder surgery is very safe. While complications are very rare, the one complication that we do worry about is damage to the common bile duct, which is a tube that runs from the liver to the small bowel and allows the bile to drain. If this is somehow damaged during surgery due to the presence inflammation or abnormal anatomy this would need to be fixed either with a larger incision or even transfer to a different hospital to have it repaired. This is fortunately rare and occurs roughly once in a thousand surgeries. Other complications such bleeding or infections can happen with any surgery and are fortunately in this procedure.
Don't I need my Gallbladder?
More than 95% people never know their gallbladder has been removed. Some people do experience loose stools following surgery which can be made worse by fatty meals. Rarely, this can persist but is easily manageable with medication.