Occasionally, patients ask me if I will remove their gallbladder during bariatric surgery. The short answer is no. Removing the gallbladder is only necessary when a person has both gallstones and symptoms from those gallstones. Gallstones that are asymptomatic do not mandate cholecystectomy (the medical term for gallbladder removal).
The question then becomes, “well won’t bariatric surgery make me get gallstones, and if so why not just take out the gallbladder to prevent that problem?” Studies have shown that the chances of developing gallstones after bariatric surgery are about 5-9%. That overall risk is still low. I would have to remove around 93 gallbladders unnecessarily for every 7 people I could possibly help. That wouldn’t be fair to those 93 people. For this reason it is best to only remove gallbladders during bariatric surgery if they would have needed removal anyway (i.e. symptomatic gallstones).
Learn more about gallstones in the video below:
Carl Lowe, Jr., MD