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A laparoscope is a tiny camera that is inserted in the abdomen by a small incision, usually made in the belly button. A laparoscopic cholecystectomy is a surgical procedure that utilizes a laparoscope to guide the surgeon while removing the gall bladder. This is considered the best option for surgical removal of the gall bladder because it is the least invasive procedure and has the shortest recovery time. Unlike the open cholecystectomy that requires a large incision site and weeks of recovery, the laparoscopic cholecystectomy is usually done as an outpatient procedure and even when it requires a hospital stay, it is usually only one night.
A laparoscopic cholecystectomy begins with general anesthesia to put a patient to sleep before the first incision in the navel is made. That is where the laparoscope is inserted. Next, two very tiny incisions are made to accommodate two needle thin tools that are used to move the gall bladder and other abdominal structures about. Another small incision allows for the surgical tools used to perform the actual cutting and clipping of the gall bladder to be inserted.
During the procedure, the abdomen is puffed out with carbon dioxide which creates more space in the abdomen for moving the tools around. The surgeon uses the needle thin tools to lift structures in the way and position the gall bladder before cutting it. Once in position, the surgeon uses the cutting tools from the last incision site to free the gall bladder from the body. Then, the gall bladder is pulled out from the incision in the navel.
Following a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, patients can expect some shoulder and incision pain, but most are able to resume normal activities within five to ten days. Pain experienced from the gall bladder attacks that prompted the surgery will be completely gone, so most patients feel much better almost immediately after surgery. Mild nausea the first few days after surgery is normal.
As with any surgery, there are some risks. General anesthesia always poses the same risks which include changes in blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, difficulty breathing, heart attack, and stroke. Risks specific to the laparoscopic cholecystectomy include bleeding, wound infection, damaged bile duct, damaged bowel, and bile leakage that may cause jaundice. If any of the following are experienced after surgery, medical attention should be sought immediately: fever, extreme pain, severe nausea that leads to vomiting, or yellow eyes or skin.