Q: What is the best way to have my gallbladder removed?

A: Gallbladder removal is one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States. More than one million people have their gallbladder removed each year.

Gallstones are most common in overweight adults between the ages of 35 and 55, and affect more women than men.

Patients have several options. With open surgery, the surgeon makes a long abdominal cut to reach your gallbladder. The incision must be big enough for surgeons to fit their hands and surgical instruments inside your body. Open surgery usually occurs with an active infection (cholecystitis).

With laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon operates through a few small incisions. Straight instruments are inserted through the incisions.

In 2011, the FDA approved the da Vinci Surgical System for gallbladder surgery. With this single-incision robotic-assisted procedure, surgeons make one small incision in your belly button, instead of the three to four incisions typical of traditional laparoscopic surgery.

While robotic surgery and single incisions are not new, combining the two to remove the gallbladder requires special training and equipment. Robotic-assisted, single-incision surgery offers many potential advantages. Patients who choose single-incision gallbladder surgery may benefit from virtually scarless surgery, minimal pain, low blood loss, fast recovery, and a shorter hospital stay. All surgeries involve risk, and your surgeon can help you decide which one is right for you.

Christopher J. Bruce is surgery chair for Mercy Suburban Hospital. 610-277-6131.