Do you have gallstone pain or disease? Cholecystectomy, or surgical gallbladder removal, can alleviate discomfort without a lengthy hospital stay. Minimally invasive laparoscopic (video-assisted) techniques have dramatically reduced both surgical and healing timeframes. If you’re considering laparoscopic gallbladder removal, take a look at what you need to know about recovering from this outpatient surgery.
Post-op Surgical Stay
A traditional open cholecystectomy procedure typically requires two to three days of post-operative hospital stay. This invasive procedure requires the surgeon to make a six-inch incision in the abdomen, moving the surrounding muscle and tissue to remove the gallbladder.
In comparison, a laparoscopic procedure is much less invasive. The surgeon makes four small incisions in the abdomen instead of one long cut. During the procedure, the surgeon uses a small-sized video camera to visualize the gallbladder. This less invasive approach often equals no hospital stay for most patients—meaning you can recover at home.
Post-surgical pain is a major concern for many cholecystectomy patients. Even though every surgical procedure comes with some degree of pain, the discomfort with gallbladder removal (especially when done laparoscopically) is typically minimal. The doctor may prescribe a pain medication or recommend that you take an over the counter option such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Some patients also experience shoulder pain following laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery. This temporary discomfort comes from gas left in your abdomen during the surgical procedure.
Along with incision and shoulder pain, you may feel some degree of throat discomfort. General anesthesia used during surgery requires a breathing tube. The placement and removal of the tube may irritate your throat in the day or days following the procedure.
Severe pain and cramping are not normal following a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. If you experience these symptoms call your doctor immediately.
Returning to Activity
How soon can you resume your normal everyday activities after surgery? The answer to this question to depend on what your normal routine includes, your overall health, and your body’s reaction to the surgery. Don’t expect to resume a strenuous gym routine or go back to a manual labor job immediately after your operation.
Even though laparoscopic surgery provides patients with a shorter healing time, you will still need to take it easy for several days after the procedure. Avoid heavy lifting and physical activity for the first week or two following your surgical discharge.
It’s possible, in some cases, to return to work or school during the first few weeks of your recovery period—especially if you sit at a desk or have a sedentary type of job. Your doctor will advise you on when you can return to other activities, such as exercising or engaging in physically demanding tasks.
Again, this depends on your physical state and how your body reacts to the procedure. The doctor may want you to rest until your post-op follow-up visit. It may take up to six weeks for you to fully recover from the surgery, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Along with discomfort from a breathing tube, the use of general anesthesia may cause post-operative nausea. Some patients also experience vomiting. If the vomiting is severe, accompanied by other symptoms (such as abdominal pain or fever), or causes discomfort, contact your surgeon immediately. The doctor may need to evaluate you for post-op complications or may need to prescribe an anti-nausea medication.
Loose stool is another post-surgical symptom to expect. These may last four to eight weeks and will typically resolve without additional treatment.
Do you have gallstones? Are you considering surgical removal of your gallbladder? Contact The Surgical Clinic for more information on this common procedure. Visit our locations page to learn about a clinic near you that benefits from board-certified providers with years of experience.
Meet Our Gallbladder Surgeons
Mark E. Cooper, MD, FACS
Marc E. Rosen, MD, FACOS
Willie V. Melvin III, MD, FACS