Gallbladder removal - Complications 

Complications of a gallbladder removal 

Removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) is a relatively quick and safe procedure, but, like all operations, there is a small risk of complications.

Infection

An infection can occur after any type of abdominal operation and occurs in around 1 in 15 cholecystectomies. Both simple wound infections and infections inside your abdomen can be treated with a short course of antibiotics.

Risks from general anaesthetic

There are several serious complications associated with having a general anaesthetic, but these are very rare. Complications include allergic reaction and death. Being fit and healthy before your operation reduces the risk of any complications occurring.

Bleeding

Bleeding (haemorrhage) can occur after your operation, although this is rare. If bleeding does occur, it may require a further operation through the same keyhole scars as your first operation.

Bile leakage

When the gallbladder is removed, special clips are used to seal the tube that connects the gallbladder to the main bile duct, draining the liver. However, bile fluid can occasionally leak out.

Sometimes this fluid can be drained off. In rare cases, an operation is required to drain the bile and wash out the inside of the abdominal cavity.

Bile leakage occurs in around 1-2% of cases.

Injury to the bile duct

The most serious complication of gallbladder surgery is injury to the bile duct, which occurs in about 1 in 500 cases. If the bile duct is injured during surgery, it may be possible to repair it straight away. In some cases, complex and major corrective surgery is needed after your original operation.

Injury to intestine, bowel and blood vessels

The keyhole instruments used to remove the gallbladder can injure surrounding structures, such as the intestine, bowel and blood vessels. The risk is increased if the gallbladder is inflamed.

This type of injury is rare and can usually be repaired at the time of the operation. Sometimes injuries are noticed afterwards and a further operation is needed.

Deep vein thrombosis

Some people are at a higher risk of blood clots developing during surgery. This is known as deep vein thrombosis and usually occurs in the leg vein.

You may be given compression stockings to wear during the operation to prevent this happening.

Read more about deep vein thrombosis.

Post-cholecystectomy syndrome

Around one in seven people will experience symptoms similar to – though usually much milder – those caused by gallstones after surgery, such as:

This is known as post-cholecystectomy syndrome (PCS). PCS remains a poorly understood condition, but it is thought to be caused by altered bile movements through the body. For example, bile may leak up into the stomach, causing irritation.

Some cases of PCS may be the result of stones still trapped in bile ducts.

In most cases symptoms are mild and short-lived, but in around one in three cases symptoms persist for many months. If you do have persistent symptoms, you should contact your GP for advice.

One option is to carry out an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) to check for any remaining gallstones.

There are also medicines, such as antacids, proton pump inhibitors and loperamide, that can be used to help relieve symptoms such as abdominal pain, indigestion and diarrhoea.

Page last reviewed: 15/04/2014

Next review due: 15/04/2016

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The 20 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Siona1 said on 29 June 2014

Has anyone experienced an infection following the op...?The wound at my belly button is currently infected. I have been taking antibiotics for over 48 hours but no improvement.

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SusanEBrown1 said on 24 May 2014

I am almost 4 weeks post op, and having recovered very well for the first two weeks, I seem to be going backwards now. I suffered another gallstone 'attack' two weeks post op and ended up in A & E after turning yellow. They thought I had a rogue stone and after an ultrasound scan showed no signs, assumed I'd passed it. Five days later I had another attack. My liver tests are abnormal but was told that is normal after surgery. I am awaiting the latest blood test results. My symptoms now seem to be the same as jeanettemw71...I feel like I am pregnant with the baby's foot stuck under my right ribcage. It appears to be getting worse, not better. I would love to know how Jeanette is doing now, four months on.

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Joey9394 said on 27 March 2014

Heatherlynn135 I feel your pain. I had emergency gallbladder removal in August 2013. They literally did an ultra sound rushed me into surgery and I was home a few hours later. No one really told me what to expect, how to deal with side effects or when to be concerned. I was in the process of moving and starting college at the age of 47 so there was no time to be down. I'm like you I know something is wrong, I feel often as if I'm having gallbladder attacks, the swelling is awful and I have always been thin but I am trying to take it in stride. The past 3 weeks I have developed a terrible rash on my right lower abdomen and the pain has increased, now my face even has sores on it like some sort of infection. I am a super healthy adult, don't drink, smoke, drink pop, eat healthy but I am drained to fatigue all the time. I can tell I'm not getting any nutrients from the food I eat. Something is wrong, I know my body and it just feels like I have some sort of infection. I just went to the doctor who "did not" take a urine sample or even my temp. but did give me cream for the rash? I'm really worried I have some sort of infection in my stomach. I'm not sure where to turn at this point. Anyone who has any input I would love to hear it!

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heatherlynn135 said on 23 March 2014

I had my gallbladder and gallstones removed in September 2013. The procedure went well, but it never felt like I properly healed internally.

Cut to 6 months later and it is now unbearable! I have severe pain under my right ribcage right where my gallbladder used to be. I've had constant diarrhea since the operation and I'm now vomiting/dry heaving as well. I can barely eat because every time I do, I get sick within a half hour of eating. I've lost about 10 lbs just from not eating and being sick.

I went to the hospital tonight and described all of my symptoms. They did a ct scan on me and blood tests and they said everything is normal. I'm so frustrated because it's definitely not normal to be in so much pain and this sick! I'm as sick and hurting as bad as I was when I had to go to the hospital for my surgery! They told me to follow up with the surgeon who removed my gallbladder on Monday. I really hope he takes this seriously because this is wreaking havoc on my life and my body. I just want to feel healthy again. :(

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Lakssarv said on 14 March 2014

I had gall bladder surgery 6 years back at my 31 years of age.

After laproscopic surgery, i had bile leak . While removing bile leak under the liver, one of liver's vein was cracked (owing to different anatomy) and i had blood leak. Then i was embolised (blocking vein) twice - One centralised (heart to liver) and another localised. After 3 months of surgery, my bile duct thinned and i was suggested by-pass operation by doctor.

I didn't go through the same for past 6 years, thanks to liver regeneration of secondary veins and living with mild diarrhoea upon having spicy/oily foods(indian) or work related stess.

Used to have Ursodiol (300mg) and continued to have all sort of food for 4 years. But upon getting tired, swelling legs, protien released to urine and cysts formed in uterine, stopped having non-veg and other protein foods. Yet to cut on caffiene(eventhough have bowel irritation). Also having ayurveda medicines to thicken the stools (not helping much, without restricting food). So ultimately trying to avoid all sorts of mouth watering foods :-))

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User850666 said on 02 March 2014

I had my gallbladder removed at Broadgreen Hospital last week. I was in for a couple of days. Not the greatest experience of my life. The staff very rarely spoke to me I spent hours in the bathroom over two hours at one point trying to cool my skin down from an allergic reaction to antibiotics and not once was asked if I was ok. I'm so upset by the lack of care. I was discharged with no information on what happens next and some more medicine. No contact for any possible help or advise. I have had severe diarrhoea since leaving and more pain than when I had my gallbladder. I was given a number to arrange for my staples to be removed, wrong number. I have been sent a letter to see a consultant in nine weeks.
I've had to attend the local walk in twice and my own doctor as I became that dehydrated due to the diarrhoea who changed all the medication the hospital gave me.
I honesty preferred the gallbladder pain to this at least I could get some sleep. I advise anybody whose getting this operation to check out where your getting it done and what overall care the trust operates. This is a very routine operation maybe too routine that the hospital and it staff forget about the individual.

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JX57 said on 21 January 2014

Jeanettemw71 - I had my gallbladder removed only a week ago. Pre op I felt as though there was a 'bubble' under my right ribcage so was hopeful that post surgery this would go. Unfortunately I still have the same pain. I don't know why I still have this pain when I don't have my gallbladder anymore and which I thought was the cause of the discomfort and am very disappointed too

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jeanettemw71 said on 10 January 2014

I had my gallbladder removed 3 weeks ago and now I feel like there is a lump underneath my right ribcage. It is extremely uncomfortable to sit for long periods of time or to drive. The GP said she couldn't feel anything when she examined me but its only a problem when I'm sat or stood up, not when laid down. The only way I can explain it is its like when you are pregnant and the baby sticks its foot up under your ribs. Has anyone else experienced anything like this?

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liver damaged said on 02 January 2014

I had my gallbladder removed over 20 years ago, within a or so of being let out of hospital I was re admitted, a couple of days later was sent home again......the pain didn't stop, years of asking doctors for help and being admitted to hospital with no conclusion, ended in me finally being diagnosed with helicobacter pylori.....I was treated for helicobacter and the pain that the doctors associated with my gallbladder dissipated over time......but still get pain in shoulder and upper back.......sometimes get a rash on my back also, which could possibly mean I am having a problem with my liver.....have returned to hospital numerous times only to be told there is nothing wrong, after continued bouts of pleurisy, and burst eardrums because of infections which has caused a severe loss of hearing.....I have had enough and am ready to pursue other routes to find out exactly what has happened and if there is anything that can be done to help me after such a long time .......I could not believe the response from the surgeon who did my operation.......he didn't even give me any tests, just said there is nothing wrong and dismissed me.....

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madcow66 said on 24 November 2013

Hi- had my GB removed 081113. Went down for op 2.30, but didn't come out of recovery until 6.30! Went home that evening. Was ok on the sat and Sunday morning was surprised how well I felt. 1/2 hr later I was in so much pain and being sick, was ambulanced to A&e and was kept in with infection. Had antibiotics and pain killers via drip for 3 days, came home with with a further 14 days worth of antibiotics. Getting a bit fed up with it now, not really eating much as have no appetite, but have terrible diarrhea, which feels like I am passing just acid.
Has anyone else had this problem? I was bruised terribly around my belly button, which you can still see 2 wks on. I have booked 2 wks holiday to save on pay as on ssp, so it's a worry thinking I will need more time off work. How long will it be before I feel better, getting very depressed with it all now :(

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zacmac said on 17 November 2013

I had my GB removed on Oct 31st via Laproscopic surgery, spent the night in hospital and returned home next day. I felt really good and glad that my "collapsed" bladder was out and that my recovery could begin. I hoovered the house the following day and although I felt a bit rough, got through it. However, 14 days on the abdominal and back pain started. The pain seems to be generating from just below my right ribs through to my back. Some days I am doubled up in pain, a pain that no painkiller will touch. I also have a large Seratoma that had formed but appears to be getting bigger not smaller. I'm not seeing my Consultant for another 4wks. I've had other surgery in the past and this is the worst recovery I have experienced. They say that time is a great healer and that patience is a virtue.

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Mazzatwins3 said on 13 June 2013

I had to write on this. I'm a 31 year old female mother of 3. Generally healthy average weight had gallbladder surgery in November 2012. Long story short I had be diagnosed in New Zealand when I was on holiday in 2006 after an agonising attack they did scan knew straight away. Changed diet ate low fat then gradually over 6 years diet relaxed slightly. 2011-2012 - kept having strange feeling of nausea, hearburn, panic attacks from this until Oct 2012 thought I was dying thought I had a severe viral inf had temp swears shivering for 3 days then the pain started horrendous. Went to a and e at 4am they kept me in did a scan I had over 20 large stones packed in my gallbladder. No wonder I was in agony. The hooked me up to drips with anti biotics and painkillers let me go home. Was so scared to eat but managed low fat (lost 10lbs in 4 weeks) started to feel better. However I am lucky enough mum has me under her private health care so I could have op privately. Felt fine after in myself obs pain in shoulder was bad from op but I drank peppermint tea to sort that. Felt great top of the world for 5 months until recently I've had bad ear inf been on tablets for pain and started horrific heartburn (feels a bit like gb pain in shoulder blades but then dissapears) I can no longer drink coffee as it gives me heartburn. Now docs done bloods to make sure I'm ok and on tablets for lining on tummy for next month but other than that feel great x

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ainsy71 said on 07 May 2013

my dad is 79. he was rushed to hospital June 2012 with severe pains. cut a long story short (they at first diagnosed heart problems as he had had a triple by pass 10 years ago) he had his gall bladder removed June 2012, then got hospital acquired pneumonia and was in hospital for about 6 weeks. he was very poorly and lost a heck of a lot of weight. Treatment was complicated further due to him being allergic to penicillin.
since coming out he hasn't been right! he has had constant pain in his side, which the Drs put down to the scar healing (!!?? for 10 months??!!) and recently piles (not sure if they're relevant) which became infected and are still infected after 3 courses of oral anti biotics.
my dad now weighs under 9st, has gone from fit and healthy for his age to an old man, unable to do anything much.
yesterday the pain in his side became too great and they rang an ambulance (after 111 advice). He has been admitted to hospital and after a scan has been told they think there is a stitch left in there????!!! they described it as "like a piece of metal" floating around. as i type they are deciding which course of action to take.
Has anyone experienced anything like this before? What happened?

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hightownlady said on 05 April 2013

In reply to MSH1979 I had my gallbladder removed June 2012 and am still having worsening problems with pinching pain every day and I also experience the 'wind feeling' of pressure against my diaphragm. I'm having CT scan now, which I really don't want, no explanation as to why.
I suppose they are looking for damage.
But I had very bad gallstone attacks so felt there was no alternative to the op.
How did you get on with the MRI?

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MSH1979 said on 04 December 2012

I had my GB removed on the 10th November. I left hospital the second day and it took me around 4 days to recover and go out and have a walk. I am a healthy and fit 33 years old male.
I had 7 attacks so far where i expereince strong abdominal pain. It starts around the waist and feels like wind moving inside the intestines but then builds up and feels like strong pressure against the diaphragm. The first ones used to last 10 - 15 mins and would dissappear after taking paracetamol. However the last two attacks lasted about an hour and were not relieved with pain killers.
Blood tests showed increased liver enzymes. Ultrasound scan did not reveal any leakage from bile duct.The doctor assumes this is because of clips adding pressure on the bile duct. We are awaiting the MRI scan to show what is going on.

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ticketyboo10 said on 02 March 2012

Although invasive surgery has to be carefully considered. I took the advice of one GP and tried to avoid surgery. His conservative view was not realistic and a year later after talking to another GP, who was pretty sure that eventually I would need the surgery (more realistic comment)..I went ahead and had the surgery. I am less than 2 days post surgery, but seem to be doing quite well. Bit of a pain getting up and about without engaging stomach muscles too much, but that'll be short term.
So insanedwarf, I would urge you to reconsider avoiding the surgery, especially if ultrasound has revealed lots of small stones, which can be an issue for pancreatitis and more pain as the larger stones tend to stay put in the gallbladder. Then again, I am guessing that the larger stones could still break up into smaller pieces that cuase blockage of ducts, pain and risk to the pancreas.
If you can, find out which surgeons in your area are more specialised in this area s that may be a better bet than a general surgeon. Some older surgeons who deem themselves not to be as efficient in laparoscopic surgery may get a senior registrar to do the operation, and that could be a good thing. You have the right to explore all of these possibilities. Good luck.

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Newfy said on 29 November 2011

I had my gallbladder & gallstones(8) removed in October. The pain and sickness of an attack was something I wouldn't wish on my worse enemy, but now I am absolutely fine! No side affects.... none! can eat anything I want, but dont... the only 'up' (if you can have an up side!) of gallstones and inflamed gallbladder is a very very low fat healthy diet and I dropped three dress sizes! Now I still stick to a low fat diet, have got so used to it I don't want fatty foods!... so if you are not sure about having surgery... I would say have it done... keyhole surgery, in and out within 12 hrs, and back at work before they even knew I 'd gone!

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lorybeck said on 05 November 2011

I went into hospital as I was having trouble and was told it ws my gallbladder they tried keyhole but in the end they had to open me up. 13 stones were removed but I was told it was too dangerous to remove the gallbladder. I had to have a drain tube and bag inserted until 6 weeks later had the same operation and was told they couldn't remove the whole gallbladder. I am back to normal health now and apart from a small area around the scar that is still numb I feel absolutely fine. Please don't worry if they have to make the bigger insistion - the pain is soon forgotten!

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bigwoody said on 12 August 2011

I had my gall bladder removed in Oct 2010 - and other than some discomfort for about 3 weeks , and some "grit" causing me a final attack a couple of months later I'm very glad I had it done - the pain of an attack is nothing I want to experience again.

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insanedwarf said on 06 June 2011

after reading this page will be looking for a non surgical option to a painful and inflammed gall bler

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