More than half a million people in America have their gallbladders removed, or a cholecystectomy, every year. This is the most common treatment for symptomatic gallstones.
There are three options once it has been decided that surgery is your route of treatment. Traditional open cholecystectomies are major abdominal surgeries and are reserved for the most emergent situations because the gallbladder is removed through a 5- to 7-inch incision, followed by a few days in the hospital and weeks of recovery at home.
Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is now the more common choice. For this surgery, several small incisions in the abdomen allow the doctor to remove the gallbladder through small cylindrical tubes with the guidance of a video camera. Recovery time is typically much faster.
The third and most recent advancement in cholecystectomies is the robotic cholecystectomy. This procedure is performed using a new set of specially designed robotic surgery instruments attached to the da Vinci Surgical System. The surgeon makes an incision, less than an inch long in the belly button, and has a high-definition, 3-D view to remove the gallbladder. Surgery can be completed in less than 60 minutes and patients can return home the same day.
The potential primary benefits of minimally invasive, robotic cholecystectomy are:
- Minimal pain
- Less blood loss
- Fewer complications
- Less risk of infection
- Little to no scarring since the incision is hidden inside the navel
- Shorter recovery time
- Faster return to normal activities
As with any surgery, these benefits cannot be guaranteed since surgery is unique to each patient and procedure. Not all patients will qualify for robotic cholecystectomy. Be sure to ask your doctor about your treatment options, as well as their potential risks and benefits.