Professor Peter Lodge’s gallbladder surgery methods are based on the principles of meticulously carried out minimally invasive surgery combined with a rapid recovery programme. With surgery carried out as a day case or overnight stay, the results have been outstanding.
Professor Peter Lodge is one of the North’s most experienced specialists in gallbladder surgery.
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Questions About Gallbladder Surgery
Gallstones form most usually in the gallbladder, a small pear shaped organ attached to the under-surface of the liver. If the gallbladder is affected then it should be removed. In some cases small stones can pass out of the gallbladder into the main bile duct. This can cause jaundice, a dangerous condition that is first recognised by the development of a yellow discolouration of the sclera (the white of our eyes) and the passage of dark urine. More rarely, gallstones can form inside the bile ducts, small tubes that carry bile from the liver into the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine. This usually only occurs if there is an abnormality of the bile ducts themselves and this can only be dealt with by specialists like Professor Peter Lodge.
Unfortunately, gallstones can cause a number of problems. Most commonly, pain occurs as the gallbladder tries to carry out its function of squeezing bile into the bile ducts when we eat. This is known as biliary colic, a severe pain starting usually in right side of the abdomen, but often also affecting the back and shoulder. This can lead on to cholecystitis, where a dangerous infection starts to destroy the gallbladder. More rarely, this can cause jaundice or lead on to the development of a gallbladder cancer.
The gallbladder stores and concentrates bile as part of normal digestion. This is not an essential process and in many ways the gallbladder is like the appendix as it is not necessary for day to day life. The gallbladder is attached to the under-surface of the liver and if it causing trouble, pain most usually starts just below the ribs on the right hand side.
Cholecystectomy involves surgical removal of the gallbladder. The main indications are pain (biliary colic) or infection (cholecystitis).
Unfortunately, once gallstones have formed it is necessary to remove the gallbladder. New stones form rapidly once a gallbladder has been damaged, so it is generally recommended to remove the whole gallbladder rather than just the stones.
The most common operation is called a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. This involves putting 3 or 4 small telescopes (called ports) into the tummy to allow special instruments to enter the abdomen to do the surgery. The operation involves isolating, sealing and dividing the junction between the gallbladder and the main bile duct and also a small artery that supplies the gallbladder with blood. The next stage is to free up the gallbladder from the under-surface of the liver and take it out of the abdomen using a small bag that is pulled through the tummy button. Very occasionally, the laparoscopic (keyhole) approach is not possible and an open operation may be needed, using a larger abdominal incision, but this is thankfully rare in Professor Peter Lodge’s practice.
The operation usually takes 15 to 30 minutes, although some cases are complicated and may take more time. Following the operation, you are likely to feel some pain in the abdomen as well as “referred pain” in the tips of your shoulders – caused by the gas used to inflate the abdomen. This usually disappears within a few hours and you will be given pain killers to ease it.
Although many general surgeons routinely do gallbladder surgery, some are more expert than others, just like in any other job. A surgeon who specialises in gallbladder surgery will usually have a lower rate of having to convert to an open operation and an overall lower rate of complications.
Following successful laparoscopic surgery, most people are fully recovered within 7 to 10 days of the operation. Laparoscopic surgery doesn’t look much on the outside, but you have to remember it’s still a big operation inside so you may experience some aches and pains over the next couple of weeks while everything is healing up.
For most occupations, we would recommend taking 2 weeks off work. If your work involves a lot of heavy lifting, it would be advisable to ask for light duties until 6 weeks after the operation.
Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is commonly performed and generally safe. For most people, the benefits in terms of improved symptoms are much greater than the disadvantages. However, all surgery carries an element of risk. Specific complications of laparoscopic cholecystectomy are uncommon but can include accidental damage to other organs in the abdomen (such as the bile duct, bowel, bladder, liver or major blood vessels) requiring further surgery to repair the damage.
Professor Peter Lodge is one of the most experienced specialists in the North of England for dealing with such problems, taking referrals from many other hospitals. In the longer term, some people experience ongoing abdominal symptoms, such as pain, bloating, wind and diarrhoea. These may require further investigation and treatment but in most cases these are easy things to sort out. The chance of complications depends on the exact type of operation you are having and other factors such as your general health. Professor Peter Lodge will explain in more detail how any risks apply to you.
The first step with any medical condition is to talk to your family doctor. If the GP thinks that you have gallstones or a problem with your gallbladder, you can ask him/her to refer you to Professor Peter Lodge at Spire Leeds Hospital. A typical appointment lasts about 40 minutes.