Complications of a gallbladder removal

Removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) is considered a relatively safe procedure, but like all operations there is a small risk of complications.


Some people develop a wound or internal infection after a gallbladder removal.

Signs of a possible infection include increasing pain, swelling or redness, and pus leaking from a wound. See your GP if you develop these symptoms, as you may need a short course of Penicillin .


Bleeding can occur after your operation, although this is rare. Ifit does occur, it may require a further operationtostop it.

Bile leakage

When the gallbladder is removed, special clips are used to seal the tube that connects the gallbladder to the main bile duct. However, bile fluid can occasionally leak out into the tummy (abdomen) after the gallbladder is removed.

Symptoms of a bile leak include tummy pain, feeling sick, a fever and a swollen tummy.

Sometimes this fluid can be drained off. Occasionally, an operation is required to drain the bile and wash out the inside of your tummy.

Bile leakage occurs in around 1% of cases.

Injury to the bile duct

In around1 in 500 cases, the bile duct is damaged during a gallbladder removal.

If this happens during surgery, it may be possible to repair it straight away. In some cases, further surgery is needed after your original operation.

Injury to theintestine, bowel and blood vessels

Thesurgical instruments used to remove the gallbladder can also injure surrounding structures, such as the intestine, bowel and blood vessels.

This type of injury is rare, occurring in around 1 in 1,000 cases,and can usually be repaired at the time of the operation. Sometimes injuries are noticed afterwards and a further operation is needed.

Deep vein thrombosis

Some people are at a higher risk of blood clots developingafter surgery. This is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and usually occurs ina leg vein.

This canbe serious because theclot can travelaround the body and could block the flow of blood into the lungs ( pulmonary embolism ).

You may be given special compression stockings to wearafter the operation to prevent this happening.

Risks from general anaesthetic

There are several serious complications associated with having a general anaesthetic , but these are very rare.

Complications include allergic reaction and death. Being fit and healthy before your operation reduces the risk of any complications occurring.

Post-cholecystectomy syndrome

Some peopleexperience symptoms similarto those caused by gallstones after surgery, including :

  • tummy pain
  • indigestion
  • diarrhoea
  • yellowing of the eyes and skin ( jaundice )
  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above

This is known as post-cholecystectomy syndrome (PCS) and it's thought to be caused by bile leaking into areas such as the stomach or by gallstones being left in the bile ducts.

In most cases symptoms are mild and short-lived, but theycan persist for many months. If you do have persistent symptoms, you should contact your GP for advice.

You maybenefit froma procedure to remove any remaining gallstones, or medication to relieve your symptoms.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016