A gallbladder surgeon specializes in diagnosis, removal and repair of the gallbladder and the surrounding organs and tissues. Gallbladder surgeons also perform many tasks done by surgeons of all disciplines, including research, instruction and consultation. A gallbladder surgeon typically undergoes extensive education and training before becoming licensed to practice gallbladder surgery.
The specific duties of a gallbladder surgeon often include consulting with both patients and other doctors about pre- and post-operative issues concerning the removal or repair of the gallbladder. A gallbladder surgeon provides diagnoses by reading diagnostic tests, such as bloodwork, X-rays and magnetic resonance images (MRIs). These surgeons typically remove gallbladders when gallstones cause pain or the gallbladder has become non-viable or cancerous. They often repair the bile ducts, which lead in and out of the gallbladder to the liver and small intestine.
Some gallbladder surgeons teach other doctors how to perform surgeries. Physicians specializing in surgery often run clinical trials and write papers for publication. They also make presentations on surgical techniques at medical conferences or in teaching hospitals.
Like other physicians, gallbladder surgeons may study pre-med to obtain their undergraduate degree, then earn a medical degree from a four-year medical institution. Following this eight-year course of study, a physician in training for gallbladder surgery typically serves as an intern and then a resident in a hospital setting for six to eight years.
The gallbladder is part of the gastrointestinal system. A small sac located under the liver, it stores yellow liquid called bile produced by the liver and delivered to the gallbladder by bile ducts. This bile aids in the digestion of food by breaking down fats. Sometimes stones form in the gall bladder, and when these stones become too numerous or too large to allow bile to flow properly into the stomach, pain usually occurs. Gallstones are the primary cause for gallbladder surgery, but injury or cancer can also require removal by a gallbladder surgeon.
The surgical removal of the gallbladder is called a cholecystectomy. This procedure is usually done laparoscopically. The surgeon gains access to the gallbladder through tiny incisions in the abdomen, then inserts a small flexible video camera into the area to guide the removal of the damaged or diseased organ. In cases where scar tissue is present in the abdominal area or the gallbladder surgeon decides the gallbladder will be difficult to detect with the video camera, the traditional method is typically used. The surgeon makes a vertical incision on the right side, stretching from under the ribs to the waist; this approach is often called “open gallbladder surgery.” Both procedures require knowledge of general anatomy and specific knowledge of the gastrointestinal system.