When undergoing gallbladder removal surgery, the surgeon removes the diseased gallbladder through small laparoscopic incisions. Sometimes they’ll use an open incision on your abdomen. The type of surgery depends on your choice of surgeon, general health, the reason for removal, and medical history.
Despite the size of the incision, cholecystectomy or gallbladder removal is major surgery. You’ll experience pain after the surgical procedure, but the pain is manageable with proper medication. Naturally, the pain intensity will be higher at the start of your recovery process but will decrease with time as the healing progresses.
Managing Pain After A Laparoscopic Gallbladder Surgery
Like all surgeries, gallbladder removal comes with a certain level of pain. Most people are concerned about the amount of pain and how long the pain will last after gallbladder surgery. Luckily, the pain that results after gallbladder removal is easy to manage with medication and only lasts for about a week.
The effects of the anesthesia will wear off in 4 to 6 hours after successful laparoscopic gallbladder surgery. At this point, you may experience postoperative pain, which is typical following a surgical procedure. The area surrounding the incision will be tender and inflamed, which is also expected. Pain is an integral part of the healing process as the muscle and tissues begin to repair themselves.
Since postoperative pain is expected, your doctor will prescribe pain medication to offer relief once the anesthesia wears off.
Here are some proven ways to deal with postoperative pain:
- Take your medication
Doctors prescribe different types of medications to manage pain after surgery to remove your gallbladder. Opioid painkillers such as morphine, codeine, and hydrocodone, and prescription-strength NSAIDs are great choices. While opioids are effective in pain relief, they may cause constipation and nausea. Alternatively, you may use over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol and ibuprofen such as Motrin and Advil.
However, it’s essential to ask your physician to prescribe the proper pain medication after your surgery. Don’t hesitate to ask the doctor to switch medication if the side effects are too much or if the pain persists.
- Follow the Correct Dosage
Taking your pain medication as prescribed by the doctor and at the correct intervals is the key to pain management. If the doctor recommends that you take a tablet every 6 hours, you should stick to that schedule. Since pain medicine takes a while to work, missing a dose may cause you to experience greater pain levels.
Typically, it’s better to keep the pain from getting worse than treating it once it’s gotten severe. Set a reminder on your phone to let you stick to the prescribed schedule.
- Avoid Vigorous Movements and Activities
Mild stretches and simple exercises such as short walks are crucial to your recovery. They will keep your joints and muscles supple by increasing blood flow and stimulating your body to generate adrenaline. Heed your doctor’s advice and avoid vigorous exercises and strenuous activities. Overexerting the abdominal muscles before they’re fully healed may prolong the recovery period.
- Take Extra Measures to Stay Comfortable
Choose a recliner over an upright chair during the entire gallbladder recovery period. Reclining eases the pressure off your abdominal muscle to prevent pain and allows the incision to heal quickly. Avoid tight tight-fitting garments in favour wear gowns, robes, or loose shirts and stretchy pants. You can use a homemade or reusable ice pack to keep the incision area cool.
Most importantly, remember to splint your abdomen with a pillow whenever you sneeze, cough, or laugh. Simply place the pillow over your belly and apply gentle pressure. The additional support lowers the strain on the abdominal muscle and eliminates pain.
- Allow Your Body to Heal
The amount of pain you experience after a gallbladder removal surgery depends on the surgical procedure and varies from person to person. Open gallbladder surgeries tend to be more painful because they use a bigger incision. Be patient with your body and allow it ample time to recover. Allow yourself to rest and avoid the temptation to indulge in your regular activities even when the pain subsides.
How Long Does It Take to Recover from Gallbladder Removal Surgery?
The recovery period after gallbladder removal surgery depends on whether you had an open or a laparoscopic procedure.
Most people opt for keyhole or laparoscopic surgery because it’s minimally invasive and usually requires no hospital stay. You can have the procedure done and leave the hospital the same day. Keyhole surgery has a faster recovery time and lets you return to your normal activities after around two weeks.
An open gallbladder removal surgery requires a 3 to 5 days hospital stay and comes with a longer recovery period. Usually, it’ll take 6 to 8 weeks before you can resume your normal activities.
In both cases, you should have someone pick you up from the hospital and drive you home after the procedure. If you live alone, you should have someone stay over for 24 hours following a keyhole gallbladder removal procedure.
Wound Care After Gallbladder Surgery
Most surgeons use dissolvable sutures to close the incision after gallbladder removal surgery. The sutures should dissolve and disappear in a week or two.
If the surgeon opts for non-dissolvable sutures, you’ll need to visit the healthcare facility after 7 to 10 days from removal. The hospital will give you an appointment at your time of discharge.
If the surgeon uses staples, sutures, or tape to close the incision, you may remove the wound dressing and take a shower after one day. However, you should cover the incision with plastic wrap for at least one week if the surgeon used Steri-strips to close the wound. Never try to wash off the tape strips; instead, you should let them fall off without interference.
You shouldn’t take a bath, soak in a hot tube, or go swimming until the doctor clears you.
After the wound heals, the incision will leave a scar on your abdomen. Initially, the scar will be red and visible, but the reddening will reduce, and the scar will fade over time.
Where Can You Have Gallbladder Surgery?
Dr. Abtin Khosravi is our residential laparoscopic gallbladder specialist at Ocrobotics Surgery. Booking an appointment with us connects you to a brilliant surgeon and the latest surgical technology. We use the latest, minimally invasive surgical techniques to speed up recovery and let you resume your life quickly. Call us at (714) 706-1255 for a consultation or book your laparoscopic cholecystectomy today!