Laparoscopic cholecystectomy has now replaced open cholecystectomy as the first-choice of treatment for gallstones and inflammation of the gallbladder unless there are contraindications to the laparoscopic approach. This is because open surgery leaves the patient more prone to infection. Sometimes, a laparoscopic cholecystectomy will be converted to an open cholecystectomy for technical reasons or safety.
Laparoscopic cholecystectomy requires several small incisions in the abdomen to allow the insertion of operating ports, small cylindrical tubes approximately 5 to 10 mm in diameter, through which surgical instruments and a video camera are placed into the abdominal cavity. The camera illuminates the surgical field and sends a magnified image from inside the body to a video monitor, giving the surgeon a close-up view of the organs and tissues. The surgeon watches the monitor and performs the operation by manipulating the surgical instruments through the operating ports.
To begin the operation, the patient is placed in the supine position on the operating table and anesthetized. A scalpel is used to make a small incision at the umbilicus. Using either a Veress needle or Hasson technique the abdominal cavity is entered. The surgeon inflates the abdominal cavity with carbon dioxide to create a working space. The camera is placed through the umbilical port and the abdominal cavity is inspected. Additional ports are opened inferior to the ribs at the epigastric, midclavicular, and anterior axillary positions. The gallbladder fundus is identified, grasped, and retracted superiorly. With a second grasper, the gallbladder infundibulum is retracted laterally to expose and open Calot's Triangle (the area bound by the cystic artery, cystic duct, and common hepatic duct). The triangle is gently dissected to clear the peritoneal covering and obtain a view of the underlying structures. The cystic duct and the cystic artery are identified, clipped with tiny titanium clips and cut. Then the gallbladder is dissected away from the liver bed and removed through one of the ports. This type of surgery requires meticulous surgical skill, but in straightforward cases can be done in about an hour.
Recently, this procedure is performed through a single incision in the patient's umbilicus. This advanced technique is called Laparoendoscopic Single Site Surgery or "LESS".