Gallbladder removal surgery (cholecystectomy) is the treatment of choice for painful gallstones. It can also be the right treatment solution for other common gallbladder issues, such as chronic inflammation or bile duct problems.
Given that your gallbladder isn’t a vital organ, Dr. Johnny L. Serrano, our board-certified general surgeon in Glendale, Arizona, can safely remove it to help resolve painful symptoms and protect your long-term health. While Dr. Serrano specializes in minimally invasive and ultra-minimally invasive cholecystectomy techniques here at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy, he also performs conventional open gallbladder surgery when necessary.
After your procedure, it’s normal to have bruising or redness around your incisions and a sore throat from the breathing tube; you may also experience nausea and/or vomiting. If you had a laparoscopic procedure, you may also feel some discomfort in your abdomen or shoulder.
Read on to learn four ways you can minimize post-surgery pain, accelerate your healing, and ensure a strong recovery after gallbladder removal surgery.
1. Plan for help ahead of time
One of the best ways to ensure a smooth recovery following gallbladder surgery is to arrange for help ahead of time. For two to four weeks, you’ll have physical restrictions that limit your ability to take care of yourself — having someone to help with errands, meals, and household chores sets your healing process off on the right foot.
After a minimally invasive procedure, you may be cleared to go home the same day. If you live alone, plan to have someone stay with you for the first 24 hours, when you might still be feeling the effects of the anesthesia. You also won’t be able to drive or do any heavy lifting until you’re cleared to do so by Dr. Serrano; having someone who can help with those things can make your recovery more comfortable and less stressful.
2. Follow your post-op instructions
Once your support system is in place, the next most important thing you can do to ensure a strong recovery from gallbladder surgery is adhering to Dr. Serrano’s post-op instructions. Our team provides detailed post-surgical guidelines to help you understand what to expect as you recover, along with specific self-care directions to optimize your healing process.
To promote a strong recovery, we’ll ask you to:
- Rest, get plenty of sleep, and take daily walks
- Restrict your diet as directed and stay well hydrated
- Shower within 48 hours; avoid bathing for two weeks
- Keep your incision sites clean and dry as they heal
- Avoid heavy lifting and driving until you’re cleared
If you have a sore throat from the breathing tube used during surgery, don’t let it stop you from getting enough fluids — dehydration increases postoperative discomfort, slows healing, and increases your recovery time. To avoid this scenario, start with small sips and gradually increase your fluid intake as you feel comfortable.
3. Get up and move your body
Light physical activity after gallbladder surgery, such as taking daily walks, can go a long way in supporting a strong recovery. Get out of bed as soon as you can, and increase your activity level according to Dr. Serrano’s instructions and your personal comfort.
In addition to promoting optimal circulation throughout your body and enhanced oxygen-rich blood flow to the healing tissues, staying mobile can help alleviate the gas-related discomfort that’s common following cholecystectomy procedures.
If you had laparoscopic surgery, temporary gas-related discomfort in your belly and/or one or both shoulders comes from the carbon dioxide used to inflate your abdomen for optimum visualization during the procedure. It should pass within a day or two, and can be eased with physical activity and over-the-counter pain relievers.
4. Eat a balanced, low-fat diet
Physical activity can also help ease the digestive effects of gallbladder removal, as your small intestine adjusts to the direct flow of bile from your liver. To truly minimize the abdominal bloating, gas, and loose stools that occur after gallbladder surgery, however, it’s important to practice dietary self-care with a well-balanced, low-fat eating pattern. This means:
- Sticking with clear liquids, broths, and gelatin for a day or two
- Starting with small, simple meals when your hunger returns
- Avoiding foods that can cause or worsen diarrhea (i.e., fried, fatty, and dairy foods)
- Limiting your fat intake for a few weeks to support your digestive system
- Gradually increasing your intake of dietary fiber (i.e., vegetables, fruits, whole grains)
- Drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and offset fluid loss through diarrhea
A healthy post-cholecystectomy eating plan includes a balance of lean proteins, whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and a small amount of plant-based fats, such as the kind found in avocados, olive oil, salmon or nuts and seeds.
If you have questions about gallbladder removal or the post-surgery recovery process, we can help. Call 623-321-5663 to reach Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy today, or use our easy online booking feature to schedule a visit with Dr. Serrano any time.