Gallbladder surgery

Learn about the surgical procedure, costs and recovery for gallbladder surgery.

What is gallbladder surgery?1

The gallbladder is a small organ that sits just above the liver on the right side of your midsection. It collects and stores bile from your liver, which is used by the gut to help digest food.

Sometimes your gallbladder may become blocked with gallstones.

Gallstones are 'stones' made from cholesterol, bile pigment and calcium salts that form in your gallbladder.

Gallbladder surgery is a hospital procedure to remove the gallbladder or any gallstones that may be inside it. This can be done through small incisions (laparoscopic cholecystectomy) or through one large incision (open cholecystectomy).

Gallbladder surgery is usually performed by a gastroenterologist.

Woman needing gallbladder surgery checking her temperature

Signs you might need gallbladder surgery1

Most gallstones don’t cause any symptoms and don’t require surgery.

But if you do have gallstone symptoms, you will most likely need surgery.

Here are some common gallstone symptoms:

  • Constant, severe abdominal pain.
  • High temperature.
  • Fever.
  • Jaundice – yellow discolouration of your eyes, pale faeces, and dark urine.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Shaking.

Alternatives to gallbladder surgery1

Non-surgical treatments for gallstones include:

  • A low-fat diet with limited dairy.
  • Soundwaves to shatter the gallstones.
  • Medications to dissolve gallstones, though this can have side effects and a variable success rate.
A woman eating a low-fat diet as an alternative to gallbladder surgery
Doctor and patient discussing gallbladder surgery recovery

Gallbladder surgery recovery2

Most patients leave hospital one day after gallstone surgery.

  • You should be able to return to work after 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Regular exercise can help recovery.
  • You should make a full recovery and be able to return to normal activities and eat a normal diet.

Getting gallbladder surgery at a public vs private hospital

It’s important to understand how getting your procedure in a public or private hospital differs.

Public system (Without health insurance)
Private system (With health insurance)

Will I avoid public hospital waiting lists?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I be able to choose my hospital?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I be able to choose my doctor or surgeon?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I have out-of-pocket costs?

  • No.
  • Yes.

What is the cost of gallbladder surgery?

In a public hospital

In a public hospital, gallbladder surgery is covered by Medicare for eligible residents.

Once you are discharged from hospital, you may still need to pay out-of-pocket for things like medicines and health services (like physiotherapy or occupational therapy).

In a private hospital, using health insurance

In a private hospital, private health insurance can cover some costs of gallbladder surgery.

You may have an out-of-pocket cost if you use private hospital cover when you get treatment. You can minimise some of these costs by choosing a hospital and specialist that have agreements with your health insurer.

If you have an excess on your cover, you will have to pay for that out of pocket.

What is hospital excess?

What is an out-of-pocket cost?

How to find health cover for gallbladder surgery

Minimise your costs

Ask your GP for an open referral

Your GP is the one who’ll most likely refer you to a specialist – but you may want the option to choose your own specialist.

Asking for an open referral can let you:

  • Choose your own specialist.
  • Find a specialist with good availability who can perform treatment at the hospital you prefer.
  • Find a specialist that you trust to perform your surgery.
  • Find a specialist with minimum out-of-pocket expenses for you.

Find a surgeon with minimum out-of-pocket costs

To find gastroenterologists who have an agreement with HBF, just search for ‘gastroenterologists’ in our find a provider tool.

  • Look for the “Full Cover” tick mark or “Access Gap Cover” tick mark.
  • These specialists will help minimise your out-of-pocket cost.

Find a Provider

If you’ve already started working with a specialist

If you’ve already got a specialist, ask them these questions:

  • Do you have a Full Cover or No Gap agreement with HBF?
    If they don’t, you may need to consider if their fees work with your budget.
  • What hospital(s) do you operate in?
    You can then check if the hospital has a Full Cover or No Gap agreement with HBF.

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