Gallbladder Surgery Malpractice

Laparoscopic Gallbladder Surgery, also known as Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy, is a surgical procedure that removes the gallbladder without having to make a large surgical incision to open the abdominal cavity (open or conventional procedure).

More than 90% of gallbladder surgeries are now done laparoscopically.  This procedure is one of the most frequently performed surgeries in the United States.  Unfortunately, improperly performed laparoscopic surgeries occur.  Some unskilled doctors are performing this surgery, with terrible consequences for their patients.  Also, skilled doctors may cause injuries during this surgery due to medical malpractice.  If these errors are not recognized and treated immediately, they can result in serious injuries or death.

laparoscopic gallbladder surgery

The Laparoscopic Gallbladder Surgery Procedure

The gallbladder is a small organ whose function is to store and release bile, which is a digestive fluid secreted by the liver.  Bile performs the critical function of breaking down fats so they can be absorbed by the digestive tract.

Gallbladder removal surgery is usually performed when gallstones have formed in the gallbladder, blocking the flow of bile and causing pain.

Traditional (Open) Gallbladder Surgery

In a traditional gallbladder surgery, known as “open cholecystectomy”, a large incision is made just below the ribs on the right side of the abdomen.  The liver is moved to expose the gallbladder.  The blood vessels and ducts to and from the gallbladder are cut and clipped, and the gallbladder is removed.  The patient is under general anesthesia for the procedure.

Laparoscopic Gallbladder Surgery

During a laparoscopic gallbladder surgery, a small incision is made in the abdomen and a hollow tube called a trocar is inserted through the incision into the abdominal cavity.  
Trocar for Laparoscopic Surgery
A video camera is then inserted through the trocar.  The camera is connected to a television monitor in the operating room and the surgery is performed using the TV monitor to guide the surgeon.  Several small incisions are made in other areas of the abdomen and trocars are inserted into the abdominal cavity. 

Small surgical tools, including scissors, forceps, graspers and other instruments, are advanced through the trocars to perform the surgery.  The ducts, arteries and other anatomical attachments to the gallbladder are cut and clipped, and the gallbladder is removed.

The surgeon must correctly identify each duct and artery and be sure he or she is cutting and clipping the proper ones.  Mistakenly cutting, clipping or nicking the common bile duct, for example, rather than the cystic duct can lead to serious injury or death, as can nicking or cutting adjacent organs.

The steps in the surgery include:


• Administration of general anesthesia to the patient.

• The abdomen is inflated with carbon dioxide to create enough space that the surgeon can see and maneuver inside the abdominal cavity.

• Several small incisions are made, including one in the naval.

• A laparoscope is inserted, which is attached to a camera, allowing the doctor to see inside the abdomen and identify the ducts and organs.

• Using the camera and TV screen as a guide, surgical instruments are inserted through the other incisions.  These instruments are used to cut the ducts and blood vessels and place small metal clips on them.

• The gallbladder is separated from the liver and the gallbladder is removed.


• Finally, the carbon dioxide is removed from the abdomen and the incisions are closed with stitches.

Anatomy of the Gallbladder and Ducts


The organs and ducts involved in laparoscopic gallbladder surgery are small and close together.  The surgeon is working by television camera rather than by direct vision and direct contact.  For these reasons, laparoscopic surgery must be performed carefully, by a well-trained surgeon, or terrible consequences can result.  An injury that can occur during the procedure is the cutting of the common bile duct or common hepatic duct.  It is essential for the surgeon to be careful in properly identifying the ducts he/she intends to cut and be absolutely certain that he or she is cutting and clipping the proper one.  If the bile duct is mistakenly cut during the surgery, bile will seep into the abdominal cavity and this can cause serious injury or death.  Also, cutting or lacerating another organ, such as the intestine (bowel) can cause serious injury or death.

The gallbladder is connected to the common bile duct through the cystic duct.  Injuries also occur when the surgeon improperly attaches the clips to the cystic duct.

Improperly performed laparoscopic gallbladder surgery can lead to bile leakage, infection, bile peritonitis, abscess and death.  Biliary duct injuries caused by surgeons can be devastating and sometimes fatal.


In addition, the common bile duct or hepatic duct can be damaged during the surgery, causing strictures or narrowing of the duct.  Despite corrective surgery, the patient may continue to suffer permanent pain and/or digestive problems as a result. 

Another problem after injury is cholangitis, an infection or inflammation of the bile ducts, causing bacteria and other waste products in the small intestine to flow upward causing infection.  Cholangitis can be life-threatening if not treated.

Bile peritonitis (bile leaking into the abdominal cavity) and/or infection can lead to organ failure and death, and must be acted upon immediately.  Again, immediate surgical action must be taken to prevent serious injury or death.

This is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in the United States, and sometimes unskilled doctors undertake the procedure without proper experience and training, putting their patients at risk and causing serious harm.

Berger & Lagnese represents people who have been injured by errors or mistakes during laparoscopic gallbladder surgery, including cutting the common bile duct or hepatic duct, or clipping or cutting the wrong artery or duct.  Our attorneys specialize in medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Beaver, Uniontown, Erie, and Washington PA.


Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) 







Contact Us




Tell us more:*

Berger & Lagnese, LLC

310 Grant Street
Suite 720
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Phone: (412) 471-4300
Fax: (412) 471-3116
Toll Free: (800) 350-6161
Get Directions

Connect With Us


  • Law firm highly recommended by client. Obtains a great settlement for family. Wonderful and caring staff.
  • Medical malpractice client says that her law firm was exceptional and that she was treated with courtesy and respect by her law firm and the lawyers got her the compensation she needed to deal with her injuries.
  • Family overwhelmed with what Josh Berger and David Paul did to help them by obtaining justice against doctors and hospitals whose malpractice caused the death of their mother.
  • For a medical malpractice attorney in Pittsburgh, PA, I recommend Joshua Berger. I had a heart surgery that injured me. Attorney Berger got me a great settlement, prepared me well, and his law firm was kind and caring.
  • Attorney Paul Lagnese "He Understood"

View All