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Open Cholecystectomy


An open cholecystectomy is surgery to remove your gallbladder through an incision in your abdomen.


The week before your surgery:

  • Ask a family member or friend to drive you home after your surgery. Do not drive yourself home.
  • Medications:
    • Ask your healthcare provider if you need to stop using any of your present medicines. These may include aspirin, ibuprofen, or blood thinners.
    • Ask your healthcare provider before using any over-the-counter or herbal medicine or supplement. If you regularly use these medicines or supplements, tell your healthcare provider.
    • Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your healthcare provider. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your provider if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
  • Depending on your health and results of the blood tests, you may need to donate your own blood no later than 3 days before surgery. Your own blood may be used if a blood transfusion during surgery is needed. You may also ask a family member or friend with the same blood type to donate their blood. Talk to your healthcare provider for more information on blood donations.
  • If you have diabetes, ask your healthcare provider for special instructions about what you may eat and drink before your surgery. If you use medicine to treat diabetes, your provider may have special instructions about using it before surgery. You may need to check your blood sugar more often before and after surgery.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you know or think you might be pregnant.
  • Dye may be used during your surgery to help healthcare providers see the gallbladder and bile duct better. People who are allergic to iodine or shellfish (lobster, crab, or shrimp) may also be allergic to this dye. Tell your healthcare provider if you are allergic to any of these.
  • You may need to have abdominal or chest x-rays, ultrasound, or blood, urine, or stool tests. Other tests may also be needed, such as a liver and gallbladder scan or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). Ask your healthcare provider for more information about these and other tests that you may need. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.

The night before your surgery:

  • Ask healthcare providers about directions for eating and drinking.
  • Your bowel may need to be emptied and cleaned out before the surgery. Healthcare providers may give you a liquid medicine called an enema. This will be put into your rectum to help empty your bowel. Your healthcare provider will teach you how to do this.
  • You may be given medicine to help you sleep.

The day of your surgery:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your surgery.
  • Do not wear contact lenses on the day of your surgery. You may wear glasses. Wear socks to help you stay warm.
  • If you are staying in the hospital after your surgery, bring your personal belongings with you. These may include your bathrobe, toothbrush, hairbrush, and slippers.
  • Ask your healthcare provider before taking any medicine on the day of your surgery. These medicines include insulin, diabetic pills, high blood pressure pills, or heart pills. Bring all the medicines you are taking, including the pill bottles, with you to the hospital.
  • Preparing you for surgery:
    • Healthcare providers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.
    • An anesthesiologist will talk to you before your surgery. You may need medicine to keep you asleep or numb an area of your body during surgery. Tell healthcare providers if you or anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia in the past.
    • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives healthcare providers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.


What will happen:

  • You may be given antibiotic medicine through your IV to prevent infection. You may be given medicine to help you relax or make you drowsy. You will be taken to the operating room. You will be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during the surgery. Your chest and abdomen will be cleaned and covered with sheets to keep the surgery area clean.
  • An incision will be made on the abdomen just below the right ribs. Your healthcare provider may also choose to do the incision down the middle of your abdomen. Your healthcare provider will remove the gallbladder and tissues and blood vessels sticking to it. He will check for bleeding and look for other problems in the area. Your healthcare provider may place a small tube called a drain. This tube will drain fluid from your abdomen to the outside of your body. The incision will be closed with stitches and covered with a bandage.

After your surgery:

You may be taken to a recovery room, where you will stay until you are fully awake. Healthcare providers will watch you closely for problems. Do not try to get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. When healthcare providers see that you are okay, you will be taken to your hospital room. The bandages covering your incision will keep the area clean and dry to prevent infection. A healthcare provider may remove the bandages to check your incision.

Waiting area:

This is an area where your family and friends can wait until you are able to have visitors. Ask your visitors to provide a way to reach them if they leave the waiting area.


  • You cannot make it to your surgery appointment on time.
  • You have a fever.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your surgery.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • You are not able to eat or drink or are urinating less or not at all.
  • You have trouble breathing or chest pain all of a sudden.
  • You have bad pain in your abdomen or feel faint or weak.
  • Your abdomen becomes tender and hard.
  • Your vomit has blood or bile in it.
  • Your signs and symptoms are getting worse.


  • The bile duct, nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and other organs near the gallbladder may be damaged. You can get an infection or bleed too much. Your signs and symptoms may not go away. You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. This can cause pain and swelling, and it can stop blood from flowing where it needs to go in your body. The blood clot can break loose and travel to your lungs. A blood clot in your lungs can cause chest pain and trouble breathing. This problem can be life-threatening.
  • Without treatment, the symptoms of cholecystitis and cholelithiasis may get worse. The bile flow may get blocked or the gallbladder tissue may die. The gallbladder may burst and spill bile and blood inside the abdomen. This may lead to serious medical problems, such as peritonitis (infection of abdominal wall membrane) and sepsis (blood infection).

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

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