Single-Site Gallbladder Surgery

Did you know that your gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ that stores and releases bile and other juices that help you digest food?

But when that gallbladder becomes a severe pain in your abdomen due to inflammation, disease, blockages or gallstones, surgery may be the best treatment option, says Jorge Rabaza, M.D., a general surgeon. Single-site gallbladder surgery with robot assistance can remove the pain, with minimum wear-and-tear on your body.

At Baptist Health, the procedure enables a surgeon to remove a diseased or infected gallbladder through the patient’s bellybutton.  Relative to traditional open surgery, single-site patients typically experience less pain and fewer complications. What’s more, scarring is minimal—almost undetectable—because the surgery is performed through just one tiny incision in the bellybutton.

“Robot-assisted single site surgery is better for the patients because there is only one incision and a quick recovery time,” Dr. Rabaza says.

How does it work? The doctor has a few answers:

How has gallbladder surgery changed over the years?
For decades, traditional open surgery was used to remove the gallbladder and the process left the patient with a large scar. Laparoscopic surgery—minimally invasive surgery — has been around for about 20 years, and enables the surgeon to remove the gallbladder through four small incisions. In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of single-site, robot-assisted procedure for gallbladder surgery. Some call it “virtually scarless surgery.”

How much time does the surgery take, and what is the recovery period?
Single-site gallbladder surgery takes about 30 minutes to perform, and the patient typically stays at the hospital overnight. Recovery time is one day, compared to the usual recovery period of three to four days for traditional open gallbladder surgery.

What role does the robot play?
The robot is just another surgical tool for your doctor. The technology provides flexible instruments that enhance a surgeon’s precision and mobility. What’s more, the single-site robot-assisted process provides a high-definition visual system that can further increase accuracy during the operation.

What are the limitations of this surgery?
In the past, laparoscopic or minimally invasive surgery was limited to thin patients who had not had many previous surgeries. However, because of the enhanced technology, obese patients and those who have had previous surgeries can be candidates for single-site gallbladder surgery. Of course, there are risks with any surgery, and you should discuss all options and factors with your physician.

What are the signs of gallbladder disease?
The most commonly reported symptoms include pain on the right side of the abdomen (or back) beginning sometime after mealtime. Other symptoms include bloating and intolerance to fatty foods. Some folks develop gallstones, which are little stones in the gallbladder. Over time, the stones can block the gallbladder, which leads to pain, inflammation and infection.

Typically, gallbladder disease falls into a few basic categories:

  • Biliary colic:  pain linked to gallstones.
  • Acute colic:  the presence of gallstones and infection.
  • Biliary dyspepsia: severe gallbladder pain without stones. (Polyps may be present.)
  • Acalculous cholecystitis: infection without gallstones.
  • Cancer: in rare cases.

“Gallbladder operations are one of the most common surgeries in the U.S,” Dr. Rabaza says. “Fortunately, we have the tools and the knowledge to relieve your pain and get you back to day-to-day life as quickly as possible.”

You can watch how gallbladder and hysterectomy surgeries are done through one small incision in the bellybutton with the help of a robot.  Our live webcast  featured Baptist Health Center for Robotic Surgery physicians Anthony Gonzalez, M.D., and Ricardo Estape, M.D.


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With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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