Most people don’t know where their gallbladder is located or what it does…until they suffer from painful gallstones. McLeod Surgeon Amanda Turbeville, MD, talks about new developments in removing the troubling gallbladder with robotic-assisted surgery:
Here’s an overview of Dr. Turbeville’s comments:
The gallbladder is a small organ that lives under the liver on the right side of your body. The liver makes bile, which is used to digest fats in our diet. The gallbladder stores that bile. So, when you eat a fatty meal, the gallbladder goes to work by secreting bile and helping digest the food. The problem with the gallbladders in America is that we have a diet that’s generally high in cholesterol and other fats. So, the gallbladder forms small stones from the excess cholesterol. Those stones can cause some painful inflammation in the gallbladder. Generally, the pain is episodic. So, it may last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. Generally, it’s preceded by a fatty meal. When you have a gallbladder attack, you feel pain on the right side that can radiate to your shoulder or to the middle of your back. Usually, it passes over time. The pain episodes can be weekly, monthly or yearly. But as your gallbladder becomes more diseased, these episodes become more frequent.
The greatest risk factors for gallbladder disease include being a woman, over 40 and overweight. Those are the biggest risk factors for gallbladder disease.
I would say about 98 percent of gallbladders are removed laparoscopically or minimally invasively, because an open incision is generally reserved for people who have a very infected gallbladder, or they have other issues with liver disease or other problems going on that make a laparoscopic or minimally invasive procedure not safe.
We’ve started using the robotic-assisted surgery for our minimally invasive cholecystectomies (gallbladder removals). And the reason for that is we have the 3D view. So, we have a really good idea of what’s going on inside the abdomen. We have very precise movements with the wristed instruments that allow us to mimic the natural movements that we would use during open surgery. However, with the robot, we have the benefit of being able to do it through smaller incisions.
The patient benefits of robotic-assisted gallbladder surgery are similar to all robotic surgery. The biggest is reduced postoperative pain, which requires less need for postoperative pain medication. Generally, people take pain medication for a day or two after surgery and then they’re able to move on to either Advil or Tylenol. At the same time, they’re able to get back to their activities of daily living more quickly. You leave the hospital an hour or two after surgery. You walk yourself to your car. You walk yourself into your house. You can shower, ride in a car and do all of your normal activities. You still hold off on heavy lifting or strenuous activity for a week or so after surgery, but you’re able to get back to your normal life pretty quickly.