Before & After Your Gallbladder Surgery

If you have severe gallbladder symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove your gallbladder. It’s an organ you can live without. Gallbladder removal is known as a cholecystectomy. It can be performed using open surgery through a large incision or with minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopy). 

With traditional laparoscopy and multi-port da Vinci Surgery, surgeons operate through a few small incisions. With single incision traditional laparoscopy and da Vinci Single-Site Surgery, your surgeon operates through one small incision in the navel (belly button). 


This procedure is performed using the da Vinci Surgical System® – offering the latest in surgical and robotics technologies. The da Vinci System is beneficial for performing complex surgery. Your surgeon is 100% in control of the da Vinci System, which translates their hand movements into smaller, more precise movements of tiny instruments inside your body.  

Before Your Surgery 

Receiving excellent care in a safe and comfortable environment is important to every patient facing surgery. It may be helpful to read the information provided so that you will arrive at the hospital prepared and know what to expect. You may also want a loved one to read this information so they will also know what to expect. Knowing what to expect before, during and after gallbladder surgery may help you to feel more confident about the surgical experience. 

In the days or hours leading up to surgery, medical tests are done by your doctor or nursing staff. The main goal is to make sure you are ready for surgery. The tests and health checks may include: 

  • Blood tests: Checks your blood count, liver function and blood coagulation (how quickly your blood clots). 
  • Abdominal ultrasound: A common test that checks for gallstones. 
  • Health check: Your surgeon will ask questions about your health history. He/she will also ask about medications you may be taking and explain pain control options you may be offered after surgery. Your doctor or nursing staff will give you pre-surgery instructions to follow closely, such as not eating or drinking anything 4-8 hours before surgery. 
  • The day before or morning of surgery, your anesthesiologist will meet with you by phone or in person. The anesthesiologist is the doctor who sedates you – puts you to sleep – during surgery. He/she will review any allergies you have or medicine you may be taking, and explain what happens when you are put to sleep during surgery. 

Day of Surgery 

The day before and day of surgery, your doctors and nurses will give you instructions about what to do to avoid problems with surgery: 

  • Don’t eat or drink anything the day of surgery 
  • Bring your insurance card 
  • Wear loose fitting clothes 
  • Bring a list of any medications you are taking 
  • Leave valuables with a loved one or at home 
  • Make sure you have someone to drive you to and from the hospital 

Once you are at the hospital, a wristband will be placed on your arm with your name and other identifying information on it. A nurse will start an intravenous line (IV) in your arm. The IV sends fluids into your body through a thin tube. One of the liquids may be a medicine to help you relax before surgery. 

Medical staff will wheel you into the operating room and you will then receive general anesthesia. The anesthesia puts you to sleep and allows you to stay asleep through surgery. Your surgeon will then remove your gallbladder. 


Everyone reacts to surgery and pain differently. Doctors and nurses often use a scale of 0 to 10 to measure pain (10 = worst pain, 0 = no pain at all). After surgery, you will be asked about your pain level often. Be completely honest about your pain and any other symptoms. Some patients may not have much pain at all, while others feel a lot of pain—everyone is different. 

Narcotic Pain Medicine 

Narcotics or opioids are often given to people in severe pain. Common side effects can include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Constipation 

Non-Narcotic Pain Medicine 

Your doctor or nurse may also offer you non-narcotic pain medicine. These may include ibuprofen or naproxen. Non-narcotic pain medicine can also have side effects. Common side effects may include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Bleeding in the stomach
  • Retaining fluid 

Your doctor or nurse will let you know which foods to eat and which exercises to try after surgery, and which ones to avoid. 


When you wake up from surgery and are alert, you will be given a small amount of liquid to drink. If your stomach doesn’t get upset, your nurse will offer you some food to eat. Based on your post-surgery instructions, you should be able to eat and drink a normal and healthy diet within 1-2 days after surgery. 


While in the hospital, a nurse will help you to walk and get in and out of bed after surgery. Once you’re back home, you will also be asked to: 

  • Slowly increase your activity, if you have no complications from surgery 
  • Avoid strenuous activity 
  • Avoid driving while/if on narcotic pain medicine
  • Avoid sex until your stitches, if any, are removed 
  • Rest and sleep as you feel the need 
  • Return to work when you feel you can, but consult with your doctor first 

Recovery and getting back to your normal activities will depend on whether you had open surgery or minimally invasive surgery. 

Your medical team will give you information on how to increase the chances of making your recovery a full success. You will also receive information about how to care for your incision(s). 

Learn more about General Surgery at The Oregon Clinic