Gallbladder Surgery Complications

Gallbladder Surgery is a medical procedure that involves removing the gallbladder. The patient undergoes an endoscopic technique during which a tiny camera is inserted into the mouth and throat to remove the organ. One of the most common complications from this surgery is food getting caught in your throat, causing you to choke and possibly have trouble inhaling. More life-threatening complications may include death or surgical site infections (SSI).

Food getting caught in your throat, causing you to choke, is a common complication of this surgery. There are typically four stages of choking. The first stage is that the patient will cough and try to grab any food or liquid caught in his throat. The second stage is when he loses the ability to cough and perform the Heimlich maneuver or leg lift with no success. The third stage is when he loses the ability to speak and breathe. This can be devastating because we take breathing for granted − a person who loses his ability to talk or breathe will die within minutes if not saved. The fourth stage is when the patient loses consciousness and dies.

The Heimlich maneuver and leg lifts are two ways to try and dislodge anything that may be stuck in a patient's throat. However, this may not work, so medical personnel will suction the patient's mouth and throat to try and remove the food or liquid lodged in his esophagus. Alternatively, suppose a medical professional has placed a tube down to the patient’s throat to assist with breathing or intubated him. he can try removing whatever is stuck by pulling on the tube if the food or liquid is trapped in the tube.

Major Complications from Gallbladder Surgery are


Although this is a rare complication of gallbladder surgery, it can and does happen. Some causes of death include infection, bleeding, and heart attack.

Bile Leak

This is when bile leaks into your abdominal cavity, causing inflammation which can lead to abdominal pain and increased risk for infections like sepsis. There are two types of bile leakage: intra-abdominal abscesses and wound dehiscence (a hole in the incision).

Wound infection or Surgical site Infection (SSI)

This is the most common complication seen after gallbladder surgery. Wound infection occurs when bacteria enter the incision and cause inflammation and pus. If it is not treated, the inflammation can spread to surrounding skin and muscle tissue, causing severe pain and, in some cases, death.

Gas Embolism

This is when you breathe in the pocket of air from the surgical site (typically caused when the person vomits) that travels through his circulatory system to the lungs, thereby blocking blood flow through major arteries like arteries carrying oxygen to vital organs like your heart. Symptoms of gas embolism include pain in your chest or lung areas, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, or tingling extremities like fingers or toes.

Obstruction of the Bile Duct

This is when the doctors unblock the bile duct during surgery so it doesn't fill up with stones. Bile duct obstruction is caused when a doctor fails to recognize or address the problem post-surgery, and the stones form in the duct causing severe back pain and swelling.

Bile Stasis

This is similar to having gallstones because your gallbladder doesn't empty all of its contents. Some people don't realize this because their gallbladder is working normally. However, there may be signs like a hard lump, frequent belly cramps, or fever resulting from having too much bacteria in your system.

Gallbladder Rupture (Cholecystitis)

It is the most severe complication of gallbladder surgery. A gallbladder rupture occurs when an infection and/or inflammation occurs after the stone has been removed. Symptoms might include pain, fever, chills or sweating, nausea or vomiting, and in some cases, inability to drink liquids, difficulty swallowing, back pain, or swelling of your stomach area and/or intestines.

Inguinal Hernia (or groin hernia)

This is when the incision for a laparoscopic gallbladder surgery becomes irritated and pushes the abdominal wall inwards, leading to inflammation, infection of the outer layers of skin, or infected shingles.

Intracellular Gallstones

These are twenty times more common than biliary stones, and you have zero control over them. You have internal gallstones, which make up less than 30% of the cases where stones form in your gallbladder but are extremely dangerous because they can block your bile duct leading to a ruptured or blocked bile duct causing severe pain and inflammation above the incision site.

Hydrops of the Gallbladder

Hydrops is inflammation, swelling, and fluid buildup in an organ like a gallbladder because it is diseased, inflamed, or infected. This can also happen to your pancreas, kidneys, or liver.

Cholesterol Gallstone Formation

These are very uncommon and occur when you don't have enough bile to break down fat, where cholesterol accumulates in the gallbladder, causing stones to form even after surgery.

Heterotopic liver

This is when two livers grow in one person. This is extremely rare and typically occurs because of a tumor.

Sensation Changes

This is when you have nerve damage from gallbladder surgery or an infection or inflammation at the surgical site. Symptoms include painful skin, numbness from your groin to your toes, or painful swelling of the surgical site resulting in fever and chills.

Post-operative Symptoms

Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, which may or may not be related to the surgery.


Gallbladder surgery is serious, and if you are considering having it done, ensure you are in a safe and supportive environment because there is a lot of pain involved. Ask for a medical professional specializing in gallbladder surgery to perform the procedure on you instead of an inexperienced doctor because this can make a huge difference. If you are contemplating having surgery, one of the essential points to keep in mind is that your physician needs to be able to address any of your concerns before and after the procedure. Additionally, it is to their advantage to have prior experience with the operation to know what to anticipate from it.

Updated on: 15-Feb-2023


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