Removing the gallbladder surgically is an operation that takes from one to two hours, is relatively cheap and safe, and for generations has given acceptably good results in patients who have suffered from biliary colic due to gallstones. Patients have to be in hospital for three to seven days, and are off work for two to six weeks after their surgery.
Pain absence from work and patients' fear of "major surgery" have over the last few years prompted surgeons to search for alternatives to the standard procedure. The talking point among surgeons today is Laparascopic Cholecystectomy – a tecpnique that came into vogue in the nineteen-eighties. Here, once the patient is under anaesthesia, the Laparascope, a long tube, somewhat like a telescope, is introduced into the abdomen through the navel and then connected to a video monitor. Through three special- tubes, 5 to 7 mm. in diameter that are inserted into the upper abdomen, special long shafted instruments are introduced inside, and the surgeon dissects, clips and removes the gallbladder – all the time watching the "target area" on the video monitor.
The technique is said to give minimal post-operative pain, and patients are able to get about easily after surgery, which makes it possible to return to work, or even sport, within a few days. One or two provisos exist – previous abdominal surgery, for example, precludes the use of this technique. Thus a whole series of alternatives to standard gallbladder surgery has evolved for the patient with gallstone problems. Although most of these techniques are new, and need to prove themselves with time, it would not be wrong to say that by the dawn of the 21st century, standard cholecystectomy will no longer be as commonly performed as it is today.