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Smaller incisions = shorter recovery

Bookmark and Share Most people don't think about their gallbladders - until an attack sends them to the emergency room. And, until the gallbladder is removed, symptoms only continue or get worse.

"Today's gold standard for gallbladder removal is minimally invasive surgery (MIS)," says Virtua general surgeon Sanjay Kumar, MD. "This technique provides immediate symptom relief and helps people recover from major abdominal surgery in just weeks."

What is the gallbladder?
The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ located below the liver. The liver produces bile, which helps the body digest fats. The gallbladder stores bile and releases it into the small intestine to aid digestion. Substances in the bile can harden and deposit in the gallbladder forming stones as small as pebbles or large as golf balls. Symptoms often start when these gallstones obstruct the flow of bile out of the gallbladder. "Patients usually only find pain relief when the gallbladder and gallstones are removed," says Dr. Kumar.

Removed through a half-inch incision
"Minimally invasive gallbladder surgery requires about two to three quarter-inch incisions and one half-inch incision," says Dr. Kumar. "Each incision allows the surgeon to insert and manipulate surgical tools like a laparoscope, which is a special camera that provides a magnified view of the patient's organs; forceps for grasping and holding tissues; and scissors to separate and remove the gallbladder," he says.

Before the gallbladder is removed from the body, it's placed into a plastic bag and sealed. This helps prevent infection as the organ is removed through one of the small incisions.

"On average, minimally invasive gallbladder surgery takes 30 to 45 minutes, and patients go home the same day," says Dr. Kumar. "While each patient is different, most recover from the surgery within one to two days and resume activities like work, driving and exercise within weeks."

Dr. Kumar notes that as surgeons refine their techniques, more gallbladder surgeries may be done through two incisions or even one. "This technique requires a slightly larger incision, but leaves a patient virtually scar-free."