Gallbladder Surgery | Q&A
Gallbladder Surgery Complications
Potential Complications of Surgery
In addition to the expected digestive side effects, gallbladder removal carries a small risk of various complications. These include:
As part of the surgery to remove your gallbladder, clips are used to seal the tube that connected the gallbladder to your main bile duct.
It’s possible, though, for bile to leak into the abdomen if the clip doesn’t adequately seal the tube.
When a bile leak occurs, symptoms may include abdominal pain, nausea, fever, and swelling of the abdomen.
Sometimes a bile leak can be drained without the need for further surgery. In more severe cases, though, an operation is needed to drain the bile and wash out the inside of your abdomen. (3)
Bile Duct Injury
In very rare cases, your main bile duct may be injured in the course of removing your gallbladder.
If your surgeon realizes this right away, it may be possible to fix the problem immediately. But if not, and in certain other cases, you may need an additional operation to fix this. (3)
Injury to Surrounding Structures
In extremely rare cases, your surgery may cause damage to nearby blood vessels, your liver, or your intestines.
These problems can usually be spotted and fixed right away, but if they’re noticed only later, another operation may be needed. (2,3)
A study published in March 2019 in the journalHPBfound that among people who underwent gallbladder removal because of mild gallstone pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas), nearly 15 percent experienced an attack of pain in the area after the surgery.
Most of these attacks were single events that took place within two months of the surgery. No factors were found to predict who develops this type of pain. (4)
In some cases, pain may result from gallstones remaining in the bile ducts. Surgically removing these gallstones may resolve the pain. (3)
People with certain risk factors — like prior clots, prolonged immobilization, or cancer — are at higher risk for developing a blood clot after surgery.
This type of clot, known as deep vein thrombosis, usually develops in your leg but can travel to — and lodge in — other areas of your body, causing problems such as cutting off blood flow to parts of your lungs (known as pulmonary embolism).
If you have an elevated risk for blood clots, you may need to wear compression stocking after your surgery to prevent clots from forming in your legs. (3)
After your surgery, you may develop either an internal infection or one at the incision site.
Signs of an infected wound include:
- Increased pain at site
- Pus leaking from wound
To treat an infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. In rare cases, it may be necessary to surgically drain fluid or pus from the infected area. (3)
While it’s rare, bleeding can occur internally or externally after your operation. If this happens, you may need a further operation to stop the bleeding. (3)
It’s possible — though very rare — to have severe reactions to the anesthesia used for your surgery, including a severe allergic reaction or even sudden death. (3)
Especially if you already have cardiovascular disease, the stress of surgery can cause or worsen heart problems. (2)
During your surgery, you’ll be given a breathing tube, since you won’t be able to breathe on your own under general anesthesia. This ventilated breathing may increase your chance for pneumonia.
In rare cases, you can develop a lung infection following your surgery as a result of this. Depending on its severity, you may be prescribed oral antibiotics, or you may need to be hospitalized and given intravenous (IV) fluids and antibiotics. (2)
Scars and Numbness
It’s possible that you’ll develop scarring and a loss of sensation at or around your incision sites. (5)
Part of your intestines or some other tissue may bulge through your abdominal wall at an incision site. This bulge may be painful, and if it doesn’t resolve on its own, it may require surgery to correct.
Video: What are the risks of gallbladder removal surgery?
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