ExitCare ImageThe gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ that lies beneath the liver on the right side of the body. The gallbladder stores bile, a fluid that helps the body digest fats. However, sometimes bile and other fluids build up in the gallbladder because of an obstruction (for example, a gallstones). This can cause fever, pain, swelling, nausea and other serious symptoms.

The procedure used to drain these fluids is called a cholecystostomy. A tube is inserted into the gallbladder. Fluid drains through the tube into a plastic bag outside the body. This procedure is usually done on people who are admitted to the hospital.

The procedure is often recommended for people who cannot have gallbladder surgery right away, usually because they are too ill to make it through surgery. The cholecystostomy tube is usually temporary, until surgery can be done.


Although rare, complications can include:

  • Clogging of the tube.

  • Infection in or around the drain site. Antibiotics might be prescribed for the infection. Or, another tube might be inserted to drain the infected fluid.

  • Internal bleeding from the liver.


  • Try to quit smoking several weeks before the procedure. Smoking can slow healing.

  • Arrange for someone to drive you home from the hospital.

  • Right before your procedure, avoid all foods and liquids after midnight. This includes coffee, tea and water.

  • On the day of the procedure, arrive early to fill out all the paperwork.


You will be given a sedative to make you sleepy and a local anesthetic to numb the skin. Next, a small cut is made in the abdomen. Then a tube is threaded through the cut into the gallbladder. The procedure is usually done with ultrasound to guide the tube into the gallbladder. Once the tube is in place, the drain is secured to the skin with a stitch. The tube is then connected to a drainage bag.


  • People who have a cholecystostomy usually stay in the hospital for several days because they are so ill. You might not be able to eat for the first few days. Instead, you will be connected to an IV for fluids and nutrients.

  • The procedure does not cure the blockage that caused the fluid to build up in the first place. Because of this, the gallbladder will need to be removed in the future. The drain is removed at that time.


Be sure to follow your healthcare provider's instructions carefully. You may shower but avoid tub baths and swimming until your caregiver says it is OK. Eat and drink according to the directions you have been given. And be sure to make all follow-up appointments.

Call your healthcare provider if you notice new pain, redness or swelling around the wound.


  • There is increased abdominal pain.

  • Nausea or vomiting occurs.

  • You develop a fever.

  • The drainage tube comes out of the abdomen.