We're still processing claims during the COVID-19 pandemic – find out more how this works here.

Call 08000 277 323 any day, any time

Negligent Gallbladder Surgery

Surgery for removal of the gallbladder (also known as cholecystectomy) is usually undertaken by way of keyhole surgery (laparoscopy). Although by and large surgeons who perform this procedure are competent at it, it is still a procedure which goes wrong from time to time, and sometimes this may give rise to a claim for negligent treatment.


The Clinical Negligence Team has dealt with a large number of claims arising from laparoscopic cholecystectomy, and are experienced and expert in advising where there has been negligence, and in maximising the damages to which you are entitled.

Talk to us in confidence on

08000 277 323 or request a call back


What is gallbladder surgery?

Gallbladder surgery usually involves the removal of the gallbladder because gallstones have developed and are causing symptoms. Gallstones may become trapped in a duct, and cause the gallbladder to become inflamed, which will cause pain and sometimes jaundice (yellowing of the skin).

Gallbladder removal may be performed as an open procedure (laparotomy) whereby a large incision will be made in the abdomen, but 90% of procedures are performed laparoscopically (by way of keyhole surgery) where a tiny camera and small surgical instruments are inserted through small incisions in the abdomen, and the surgery is effectively performed remotely.

What can go wrong with gallbladder surgery?

There are a number of possible complications to gallbladder removal. The most serious one is injury to the bile duct, which occurs in about 1 in 500 cases. The procedure to remove the gallbladder involves clipping the cystic duct and cystic artery, after which the gall bladder can be peeled off the liver bed. Sometimes during this process the bile duct or hepatic duct may be injured unintentionally, by incision, or by diathermy, leading to bile leakage and the need for further surgery.  If the damage is detected during the operation, it may be repaired immediately, but sometimes it can occur without being detected, leading to a major bile leak after the surgery, and if left undetected for too long, peritonitis can set in, which can be extremely dangerous, and may require an extended stay in intensive care, and could even be fatal if left untreated.

Damage can also occur to the hepatic duct, which will also require immediate repair if possible.

Sometimes injury to the intestine, bowel or major blood vessels may occur, which can have serious consequences.

All such injuries are likely to have a better outcome if detected immediately and repaired. If such injuries are left undiagnosed and untreated, they will usually result either in dangerous internal bleeding (if a blood vessel has been damaged) or peritonitis from the bile leak or from a bowel leak.

When might I have a claim?

You are likely to have a viable claim in a number of circumstances:

  • If the surgeon mistakenly clips the bile duct instead of the cystic duct, that is negligence.
  • If the surgeon nicks, cuts or otherwise accidentally damages the bile duct or the hepatic duct, with a surgical instrument (including a diathermy instrument) that is likely to be negligent.
  • Injury to the bowel or any other major organ is likely to constitute negligence, unless major adhesions from previous surgery have complicated the picture.
  • Perforation of the gallbladder is likely to be negligent.
  • More generally, if there is a failure to monitor a patient after surgery, and a major bile leak occurs, and is allowed to fester such that peritonitis sets in, that may well found a claim for negligence. The same would apply if damage had occurred to the bowel or a major blood vessel during surgery and the patient is not properly monitored afterwards.

Each case must be considered on its own facts and with the benefit of specialist advice from experienced surgeons and lawyers who understand the issues in cases involving gallbladder surgery.

What sort of compensation might I be awarded?

The amount of compensation awarded in cases of injury arising from gallbladder surgery does vary from case to case. Damages will be awarded for your pain and suffering and for any loss of earnings you suffer, or care which you might need. There may also be a risk of your developing complications in the future, because of what has gone wrong. Common examples are the possibility of strictures developing, and the risk of ascending cholangitis; if there is a significant risk of such complications arising in the future you will be compensated for that risk. See below for examples of settlements which we have obtained for previous clients.

Recent awards

Share this

Explore our site