There are few things in life that are more excruciating than a gallbladder attack, so it’s no surprise that patients who have experienced one firsthand are willing to undergo gallbladder surgery to avoid another painful episode. Nearly 25 million Americans have gallstones—crystalline formations made up of cholesterol and other components of bile made by the liver to digest fat. One million new cases of gallbladder stones are diagnosed each year. Experts expect that number to grow, thanks to our increasingly sedentary lifestyles and overindulgence in refined sugars and fatty foods.
Amazingly, 70 to 80 percent of the people with gallstones never know they have them. But for the remaining 20 to 30 percent who have felt the effects of gallbladder stones on the move or had a stone block one of the ducts that let bile flow from the liver to the small intestine, life can be pretty miserable. Acute pain in the right side of the chest that often radiates to the upper back and shoulder blades, nausea, vomiting, and frequent burping, belching and flatulence are a few of the unpleasant symptoms. While some individuals try to cope with gallbladder disease with changes to their diet and exercise routines, nearly one million people still undergo gallbladder surgery—also known as a cholecystectomy—every year.
Not too long ago, gallbladder surgery was a major “open” procedure that required the surgeon to make a five- to seven-inch incision across the abdomen. Patients usually stayed in the hospital for up to four days, and at-home recovery was slow and painful—often taking up to six weeks before patients could return to their normal routines. While open procedures are still used for complicated cases, laparoscopic gallbladder surgery is a less invasive alternative that is more commonly used today. During a laparoscopic procedure, the surgeon makes two to three small incisions in different areas of the abdomen. Patients remain in the hospital two to three days, and at-home recover generally takes two to three weeks. But now, even laparoscopic gallbladder surgery is quickly becoming old hat.
Using the robotic-assisted da Vinci Robotic Surgical System, surgeons at DSA have propelled minimally invasive to the next level, with single incision made in the patient’s belly button.
With the single-incision, robotic-assisted gallbladder surgery, a patient can have his or her gallbladder removed in about the same amount of time as a lunch break and be home in time for dinner—with minimal discomfort and a nearly invisible scar tucked in the belly button. If you suffer from painful gallstones or gallbladder disease, Matthew Johnson, MD, general and GI surgeon, can help determine if gallbladder surgery is the right treatment for you.