This is the most common routine operation performed in general surgery. Gallstones causes many problems ranging from stomach pain, to indigestion and flatulence (belching) often brought on by eating rich or fatty foods. Gallstones can cause more serious problems such as jaundice, infection in the bile duct (cholangitis), inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) and are associated with cancer of the gallbladder.
The only effective treatment of gallstones is to remove the gallbladder containing them (cholecystectomy). The standard way of doing this is by the key-hole technique. The benefits over conventional open surgery are well established. The length of stay in hospital may be less than 24 hours. Patients with other health problems may need to stay longer. The chance of conversion from key-hole to open surgery should be under 5%. The risks of an injury to an important structure near the gallbladder (such as the bile duct) should be 1:250-1:500. Although such injuries are rare, they may delay discharge from hospital, could require further investigation or even surgery for repair.
Occasionally gall stones can jump out of the gall bladder and pass into an important tube called the bile duct. This can cause jaundice (a yellow colour in the eyes and skin is seen), pruritus (itching) and dark urine and bowel movements can become pale coloured. Occasionally a severe infection can occur (cholangitis). Mr Hayden can arrange treatment of this problem by removing the escaped stones using a special flexible camera (endoscopic treatment or ERCP) or if they cannot be removed by those means then by key hole surgery. The gall bladder is usually removed afterwards to prevent a recurrence of these problems.