Gallbladder Surgery

One of the most common abdominal procedures performed by our general surgeons includes gallbladder removal. In fact, Portneuf Surgical Specialists perform over 500 gallbladder removals annually.

More than 15 percent of Americans have gallstones and they occur in women two to three times more frequently than in men. The vast majority of individuals with gallstones do not have any symptoms. Surgery is indicated only when a patient is experiencing complications or pain caused by inflammation. The peak occurrence of gallbladder symptoms requiring surgery is in patients in the 20-60 year age range.

Typical symptoms may include epigastric (upper abdominal) pain. The onset of pain commonly appears after eating a meal higher in fat. Pain may come and go and is often unrelated to what a patient does. Over time, symptoms increase in frequency, intensity and duration. In other words, the episodes occur more often, hurt worse, and last longer. The best treatment for gallstones is surgical removal of the gallbladder. Today, this is primarily done with a laparoscope, also known as minimally invasive surgery, and is usually done as an outpatient with the patient returning home the same day of surgery.

While gallbladder surgeries are extremely common, it is important for patients to be proactive in learning about their surgical procedure. Obtaining additional information about an operation, surgeon and facility prior to the procedure could improve their overall experience and outcome.

According to the American College of Surgeons, “more than one-third of Americans who had an operation in the last five years (36 percent) did not check their surgeons’ credentials before having the procedure.” Based on this statistic and others, Thomson Healthcare and the American College of Surgeons wrote, I Need an Operation... Now What? A Patient's Guide to a Safe and Successful Outcome. The authors write that “a surgical procedure should not be something that is done to you while you passively sit by — patients should know that they can improve their odds for a good outcome if they do their homework upfront — just as they do when they’re buying a car, researching a vacation, or purchasing a house.”

The key questions patients should ask before undergoing any surgical procedure are, “are you board certified in the surgical procedure you'll be performing on me; do you perform this procedure on a regular basis and what are the potential complications I could face, and are you prepared to handle them?”

I recently attended the Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons in Boston, MA. A lecture by Atul Gawande, MD, a thought leader in general surgery and author of Being Mortal, emphasized that the recognition that a team is more powerful than a lone actor has been key to introducing practices that improve patient outcomes. It requires a huge shift in thinking from the long-standing belief that if you make the surgeon happy, the patient will be happy. But evidence suggests that shifting from “cowboy values” to “pit crew values” can save patient lives. Research at several hospitals has found that a cultural shift toward team values actually predicts an increase in patient safety, quality and satisfaction.

Portneuf Surgical Specialists is the largest general surgery team in eastern Idaho. We are six board certified, university-trained MDs dedicated to exceeding your surgical needs by offering a comprehensive, integrated plan of care for each patient. We deliver care more efficiently and effectively and support our patients and their families through the healing process. We offer a range of surgical services from inpatient and outpatient elective and general surgical services to emergency surgical and trauma care. Our team approach ensures that each patient receives the level of care that is consistent and tailored to their specific needs. You can be seen by one of our surgeons within 48 hours of making an appointment.

To reach Portneuf Surgical Specialists call 208-239-2620.

McRoberts, M.D. is board certified in general surgery. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and is the Trauma Director at Portneuf Medical Center. He has practiced in Pocatello for over twenty-three years.

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