Gallbladder Drainage (Cholecystostomy)

What is gallbladder drainage?

Gallbladder drainage is a procedure for putting a tube into your gallbladder to drain it.

The medical term for this procedure is cholecystostomy.

When is it used?

This procedure may be done when the outlet (neck) of the gallbladder is blocked by a tumor or gallstone. The blockage may cause pain. The gallbladder may get swollen or infected. A cholecystostomy may be done when treatment of the problem by removal of the gallbladder is felt to be unsafe because of your condition or the severity of infection.

The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ that is part of the digestive system. It lies beneath the liver on your right side. It stores bile, which is a fluid made by the liver to help to digest fats. Particles in the bile may form gallstones.

Your healthcare provider may feel that the gallbladder needs to be drained before it is removed. Draining the gallbladder may reduce infection and swelling, making surgery safer at a later time. This procedure will not cure any tumors or stones lodged in the neck of the gallbladder.

As an alternative you could choose not to have treatment, recognizing the risks of your condition. You should ask your healthcare provider about these choices.

How do I prepare for this procedure?

This is usually an emergency procedure, so you may not be able to plan ahead. You can plan for your care and recovery after the operation. Find someone to drive you home from the hospital. Arrange for someone to help you during your first few days at home.

Allow for time to rest and try to find people to help you with your day-to-day duties.

Follow your healthcare provider's instructions about not smoking before and after the procedure. Smokers heal more slowly after surgery. They are also more likely to have breathing problems during surgery. For these reasons, if you are a smoker, you should quit at least 2 weeks before the procedure. It is best to quit 6 to 8 weeks before surgery.

Follow any other instructions your provider gives you. Eat a light meal, such as soup or salad, the night before the procedure. Follow your provider's instructions for the morning before the procedure.

What happens during the procedure?

The procedure is done at the hospital. You will be given local or general anesthesia to keep you from feeling pain during the procedure. A local anesthetic numbs part of your body while you remain awake. You may also be given a sedative to help you relax. General anesthesia relaxes your muscles and you will be asleep. Your healthcare provider will decide which procedure is safer depending on your condition and what needs to be done during surgery. Discuss these choices with your provider.

Your healthcare provider will put a tube into your gallbladder through a cut in your skin. The tube will be connected to a drainage bag. You may need to have stones removed from the gallbladder when the tube is placed. A scope, X-rays, or ultrasound may be used to help place the tube without opening the abdomen. Your provider will discuss the choices with you and make recommendations for the best method for your situation.

The procedure usually takes about an hour.

What happens after the procedure?

You will stay in the hospital until your gallbladder is drained and better, which may take a few days. You will probably go home with the tube in place. You may not be able to eat normally for a few days and will be given fluids through a vein until you can return to a normal diet.

You will need to have the gallbladder surgically removed when you are better and there is less inflammation.

Ask your provider what other steps you should take and when you should come back for a checkup.

What are the benefits of this procedure?

Your gallbladder may be emptied and infection and swelling can be reduced.

After the blockage of the neck of the gallbladder is relieved with this procedure, it will be safer to remove the gallbladder later.

What are the risks of this procedure?

  • There are some risks associated with general anesthesia. Discuss these risks with your healthcare provider.
  • The local anesthesia may not numb the area quite enough, and you may feel some discomfort. Also, in rare cases, you may have an allergic reaction to the drug used in this type of anesthesia. Depending on your condition, local anesthesia may be safer than general anesthesia.
  • The tube might leak or not drain the gallbladder entirely.
  • Infection in the gallbladder may not be controlled. Your provider may need to place another drain to treat the infection. You may need antibiotics.

You should ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to you.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your provider right away if:

  • You have unusual abdominal pain.
  • You feel nauseated.
  • You vomit.
  • You develop a fever.
  • The drainage tube comes out.
  • There is any leakage from the tube or drainage bag.

Call during office hours if:

  • You have questions about the procedure or its result.
  • You want to make another appointment.

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Published by RelayHealth.
© 2012 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.

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