Using this guide What's covered

Here you’ll find the answers to many of your questions about gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy). Learn how the surgery works, what it may cost, what your recovery may be like, and more.

To see how the surgery is done, view our procedure animation below. For personal insights, see our patient experience videos in which HCF members talk frankly about their preparation, surgery and recovery.

Cost indicator

Discover the typical out-of-pocket costs HCF members can expect to pay for gallbladder removal, and learn how your choice of doctor and hospital affect that cost. 


Keyhole surgery costs Open surgery costs

Learn about gallbladder removal

This short animation shows the laparoscopic (keyhole) approach to gallbladder removal. See where the gallbladder is and how it's accessed and taken out of the body. 

The basics

Why is the gallbladder removed?

Your gallbladder is a small pear-shaped sac found under your liver on the right side of your abdomen. It stores and concentrates bile produced by your liver, and then releases it into your bowel to help it break down the fats in your food.

Gallstones form when the bile crystallises. They affect about 10% to 15% of adults. They vary in size from a minute grain of sand to a large golf ball. Most of the time gallstones cause no problems but sometimes they can irritate your gallbladder causing either pain or infection.

Pain from gallstones can occur at any time and especially after rich, fatty foods as this makes the gallbladder contract. The pain starts in your upper abdomen and may spread to your central chest, right side of the upper back or between your shoulders. You may also have nausea and vomiting, and in some cases, jaundice (a build-up of bile in your blood stream that causes a yellow tinge to your skin and eyes). If your pain is severe, you may need emergency surgery.

An infection in your gallbladder (cholecystitis) can be treated with antibiotics, but repeated bouts of pain or infection may mean it’s time for surgery.

What causes gallstones to form?

Normally your gallbladder stores bile and contracts on a regular basis, particularly when you take in food.  If your gallbladder fails to contract, the bile stagnates, (initially becoming glue-like) and then crystallising. The crystals then grow and become stones. Because the underlying problem is the gallbladder itself, it makes sense to remove it if the stones start to cause you problems. Simply removing the stones from the gallbladder will not resolve your symptoms. 

There are some rare inherited conditions that can predispose you to gallstones, but it’s often unclear why it happens.

How is the gallbladder removed?

Gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy) is one of the most common operations performed. Your gallbladder isn’t a vital organ, so your body can function without it. Instead, the liver, which produces the bile, just increases the bile output when needed. The two techniques used to remove the gallbladder are keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery and open surgery. Gallbladder removal may be done as an elective (planned) procedure, or if the symptoms are severe, as emergency surgery. 

The details


Alternatives to gallbladder removal

Options that may delay your need
for surgery.

Learn more

Types of gallbladder removal surgery

You may be offered keyhole or open

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Results vs risks of the surgery

The benefits and potential
complications of surgery.

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Choosing a specialist

How to find a surgeon who
specialises in gallbladder removal.

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Questions for your doctor

What you should ask before going ahead with surgery.

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Preparing for your surgery

What you need to do before surgery.

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Your anaesthetic options

About the anaesthetic and pain relief after your surgery.

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Going to hospital

What to expect on the day of your surgery

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Your surgery

What happens in the operating theatre.

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After your surgery

Your hospital stay.

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Taking precautions and life after gallbladder removal.

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People who’ve had gallbladder removal talk about their preparation, hospital stay and recovery.
View videos

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Important information

Information is provided by HCF in good faith for the convenience of members. It is not an endorsement or recommendation of any form of treatment nor is it a substitute for medical advice, and you should rely on the advice of your treating doctors in relation to all matters concerning your health. Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, however HCF takes no responsibility for any injury, loss, damage or other consequences of the use of this information.

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