Gallbladder surgery (cholecystectomy) is the go-to treatment solution for painful gallstones or another problematic form of gallbladder disease. As a non-essential organ, your gallbladder can be safely removed to put an end to painful symptoms and protect your long-term health.
Dr. Johnny L. Serrano, your board-certified general surgeon in Glendale, Arizona, specializes in minimally invasive and ultra-minimally invasive gallbladder removal at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy. These advanced laparoscopic techniques help minimize tissue damage, reduce the risk of complications, and foster faster healing for an optimal recovery.
Here, we explain what you can expect as you recover from a laparoscopic cholecystectomy.
Gallbladder surgery recovery time frame
After minimally invasive laparoscopic gallbladder surgery, most people leave the hospital or surgery center the same day as the operation. If you live alone, plan to have someone stay with you for the first 24 hours, when you may still be feeling the effects of the anesthesia.
If you have a sedentary desk job, you can expect it to take about 2 weeks to return to your normal routine; if your occupation is more physical, it may take 3-4 weeks before you get back to normal. Your personal recovery rate depends on your overall health as well as how well you adhere to our post-procedural instructions.
Either way, healing from a minimally invasive cholecystectomy is considerably easier and quicker than recovering from conventional open gallbladder removal, which can take up to 8 weeks to complete.
Possible side effects of gallbladder surgery
You can live a normal, healthy life without a gallbladder, and there aren’t any long-term effects from the organ’s removal. However, you may experience brief side effects from the procedure itself, including:
In the hours after surgery, you may feel sick from the anesthesia. This should pass quickly.
Swollen incision sites
Laparoscopic surgery uses a few tiny incisions, rather than a single large incision, to visualize and access the treatment area. Your incision sites may be swollen, bruised, red, and tender for a few days; over-the-counter pain relievers can help reduce your discomfort.
Abdominal and/or shoulder pain
Temporary discomfort in your belly and/or one or both shoulders comes from the gas used to inflate your abdomen and provide optimal visualization during the procedure. It should pass within a day or two, and can be eased with over-the-counter pain relievers.
Bloating and loose stools
Bloating, gas, and diarrhea can last for a few weeks following gallbladder surgery, as your small intestine adjusts to the direct flow of bile from your liver. Proper dietary self-care (see below) can help minimize the severity and duration of these digestive symptoms.
Each of these side effects is completely normal, and not usually cause for concern.
Self-care following gallbladder removal
We provide 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. We may instruct you to:
- Rest when you feel tired, and get plenty of sleep
- Take daily walks to promote optimal circulation
- Avoid physical strain and heavy lifting for 2-4 weeks
- Don’t drive a car until we clear you to resume
You may be able to take a shower within 24-48 hours of your surgery; be sure to cover your incision sites with plastic wrap to keep them dry. Don’t take a bath for at least 2 weeks; it’s important to keep your incision sites clean and dry as they heal. If you have surgical tape over your incisions, leave them on for a week or until they fall off. You should also:
- Start with small, healthy meals when you feel like eating
- Choose fiber-rich foods and avoid fatty meals
- Drink plenty of fluids (unless we instruct you not to)
- Take your medications as directed; call with questions
If you experience mild swelling or pain around your incisions or in your abdomen, ice therapy can help — simply wrap a cold pack or bag of ice in a cloth and apply it to the area for 10-20 minutes every couple of hours.
When to seek medical advice after surgery
Follow-up care is a key part of your surgical treatment and general safety. Be sure to go to all your post-procedural appointments; your first follow-up visit with Dr. Serrano takes place 1-2 weeks after your operation.
Give us a call right away if you have a fever, your pain is severe or worsening, your nausea isn’t going away, or your incision sites are very swollen, bleeding, or draining fluid. These problems could be a sign of a complication of gallbladder removal surgery, and should be assessed right away.
To learn more about what you can expect with minimally invasive gallbladder removal surgery at Precision Surgery and Advanced Vein Therapy in Glendale, Arizona, call 623-321-5663 or use the easy online tool to book a visit with Dr. Serrano any time.