Gallbladder surgery, also called a cholecystectomy, is often necessary for patients experiencing serious symptoms or complications associated with diseased or dysfunctional gallbladders. The procedure is necessary to remove the gallbladder to alleviate symptoms, minimize complication risks and improve overall health.
One of the biggest concerns many patients have about gallbladder surgery is how long it takes to heal internally. Though different types of gallbladder treatments are available, recovery and healing times vary and are specific to each patient. How long it takes patients to heal internally after gallbladder surgery also depends on the procedure type.
Individuals who undergo open surgery have longer recoveries because their bodies require more time to heal. This is because open gallbladder surgery involves conventional, invasive practices. Laparoscopic and robot-assisted cholecystectomy patients have shorter recoveries because there is less internal trauma to heal from. Both laparoscopic and robotic-assisted procedures are minimally invasive.
Common Side Effects After Gallbladder Surgery
All surgeries have side effects that normally resolve as patients heal and recover. However, minimally invasive gallbladder surgery side effects are better tolerated by patients and go away much quicker than those associated with open or conventional procedures.
Below are the most common side effects of gallbladder surgery:
- Pain and swelling at the surgical site/incisions
- Bloating, gas, bowel irregularities
- Sharp pain or discomfort from trapped air/gas
Patients experience these effects differently. Fatigue, nausea, and surgical pain typically go away within a few days. Swelling and bloating can take several weeks to dissipate. Normal bowel function also takes a few weeks to regulate.
In most cases, laparoscopic and robotic-assisted gallbladder surgery patients take up to three weeks to recover, whereas conventional patients can take up to 6 to 8 weeks. However, most gallbladder surgery patients feel better and resume their normal activities much sooner while their insides continue to heal.
Gallbladder Surgery: Issues That Commonly Lead to Internal Healing Delays
Regardless of surgery type, the following issues are common and can cause slower than expected healing times for patients.
Having unrealistic expectations: Before scheduling their procedures, patients must undergo a consultation to discuss their symptoms with a surgeon to learn suitable surgery options. Patients also learn what they can expect for their surgical outcome and recovery and of common and individual risks.
Soaking the surgical wound: Patients are generally advised against bathing, swimming, or submerging their surgical incisions in water for the first week or two after surgery. This is necessary to give their insides time to heal enough to reduce the risk of infection from waterborne germs, bacteria, and contaminants.
Patients should avoid showering during their first 24-48 hours home after surgery. They should also refrain from bathing, swimming, and submerging their bodies in water until their surgeon clears them.
Not taking enough time to recover: Surgery is a major medical event, despite the procedure type. Still, not everyone recognizes the importance of taking off sufficient time from work and other major obligations or certain activities. It’s quite common for patients to experience the effects of surgery differently than imagined or planned.
Pushing to get back to normal too soon can delay internal healing and cause post-operative symptoms, such as fatigue and pain, to linger longer than normal. In some cases, patients may experience increased discomfort and require additional treatment considerations to avoid recovery setbacks.
Despite being informed, it’s common for some to develop unrealistic expectations about their postoperative circumstances and engage in activities and behaviors contrary to what’s advised by their surgeon. Failure to adhere to post-operative care instructions can cause healing delays and complications.
Not moving enough: Soreness and tiredness are normal side effects of surgery. While it’s important for patients to rest as often as necessary and to avoid overexertion and strenuous activities, too much rest and inactivity can be harmful and cause healing impairments. Gallbladder surgery patients should move around every few hours during the day to help eliminate excess gas, improve circulation, and promote proper healing.
Resting in bad positions: Bloating, gas pain, and other surgical discomforts are highest during the first few days of recovery. Patients should avoid sleeping flat on their backs and sides. Instead, they should use pillows to elevate their heads and feet for better comfort and less post-surgical malaise.
Eating the wrong foods: Patients can resume their regular eating habits as soon as they feel up to it. However, as a precautionary measure, many find it beneficial to avoid heavy, rich, and gassy foods and carbonated beverages for the first day or so.
Wearing tight and restrictive clothing: Style should be the last thing on the mind during gallbladder surgery recovery. Yet, some patients resort to wearing tight-fitting garments that irritate their surgical wounds or make it harder for them to move and rest comfortably. These garments can also delay internal healing by rubbing and damaging bandages or reopening the incisions, causing them to bruise, weep, or become infected. These issues are easily preventable by wearing loose clothing made of soft material over the abdomen and stomach.
Signs That Internal Healing After Gallbladder Is Taking Longer Than Normal
Patients know best how they feel. They should monitor themselves for the following problems during their gallbladder surgery recovery:
- Fever longer than 24 hours
- Weeping or oozing surgical incisions
- Increase in fatigue or pain
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes
- Dark-colored or foul-smelling urine
Contact the surgeon immediately if any of the above complications occur or head to the nearest emergency room if the surgeon is unavailable.
If you have questions or concerns about gallbladder surgery or recovery, feel free to contact Orange County Robotic General Surgery!
To find out if inguinal hernia repair surgery is right for you, Contact Orange County General Robotic Surgery at (714) 706-1257 for a consultation with Dr. Abtin H. Khosravi.