Maria O’Connor: Single-Incision Gallbladder Removal

“They calmed my fears—especially regarding the anesthesia, and they took great care of me.”

Maria O’Connor, 28, enjoyed a family trip to her native Bolivia just one month after having  her gallbladder removed at Allegiance Health. “I expected the surgery to be minimally invasive,” she said, “but I was even more fortunate to qualify for a single-incision outpatient procedure with the daVinci® robot,” she said.

Maria had been experiencing bouts of pain in her upper right abdomen, but she attributed it to “minor intestinal issues.” Then she awoke at 2 a.m. with severe discomfort. When the pain did not subside, her sister took her to the Emergency Department, where Maria was diagnosed with gall bladder disease.

A follow-up ultrasound confirmed that Maria’s gallbladder was filled with gallstones. “I really hoped the stones could be dissolved with medication, but that was not an option,” she said. “I had never had surgery of any kind before and never taken prescription pain medications, so I was pretty scared.”

Maria chose to have her surgery at Allegiance Health. “When I received my diagnosis, I had the choice of going anywhere. I wanted to stay in Jackson, because that’s my home, and I didn’t want to drive out of town for follow-up.” She consulted with general surgeon Christopher Pfeifer, DO, and learned that he is experienced with single-incision gallbladder surgery. That was the deciding factor.

“When I received my diagnosis, I had the choice of going anywhere. I wanted to stay in Jackson, because that’s my home, and I didn’t want to drive out of town for follow-up.” Maria O'Connon, minimally invasive surgery patient

Maria is prone to keloids, which is the development of extra scar tissue, so she was concerned about having even minimally invasive surgery. “I work for a urologist, and I have seen many patients who have had robotic surgery. The recovery time is so much faster, and there are fewer complications and less pain. But I didn’t want to risk scarring from multiple incisions, no matter how small they are,” she said.

Dr. Pfeifer thoroughly explained Maria’s condition and her surgical options. “He even drew pictures to show me how the procedures work,” she said. "He said the pain I had become accustomed to would be totally gone after recovery, and he assured me I was not the youngest gallbladder surgery patient.” Dr. Pfeifer also explained that single-incision surgery is not appropriate for every case, but that he would do his best. “His confidence gave me confidence,” said Maria.

Also adding to Maria’s confidence were the Allegiance Health nurses. “They calmed my fears—especially regarding the anesthesia, and they took great care of me,” she said.

Dr. Pfeifer was able to fully remove Maria’s gallbladder with a single incision just below the belly button, and she was thrilled with the results. “He recommended that I take two weeks off work, but I had the two-week vacation planned the next month, so it was important to me to get back sooner.” As it turned out, Maria had surgery on Tuesday and was able to work the following Monday.

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