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Things You Need to Know About Laparoscopic Gallbladder Surgery

Ten things that I wish the internet would’ve told me about having laparoscopic gallbladder surgery.

Gallbladder removal surgery is also known as cholecystectomy.  When my doctor told me I needed my gallbladder removed, I asked questions, gained a second opinion, and frantically searched the internet for answers.  My situation was urgent, but not an emergency.  I had about a week to weigh my options and after doing my research, I scheduled surgery.  Nearly one month later, I feel fantastic. 

 

However, the information I found on the internet left me terrified and confused.  I’m thankful for a good doctor who was very patient with my concerns.  Yet, I wanted to hear from people who have gone through the same situation – what did it feel like?  How long until they recovered?  And most importantly, when can I eat solid foods again?

                                                          

Surgery is scary and I would never trust a serious decision to what people on the internet tell me.  There is no substitute for talking with your doctor.  Yet, it can be comforting to know you’re not alone in the world when you need to make a decision about something like surgery.    

 

Here are some things I wish I knew and learned along my laparoscopic cholecystectomy journey –

 

  1. Laparoscopic surgery may have a quicker recovery time than traditional surgery, yet it is still painful.  Remember, you’re having an organ removed!  Some people are able to return to work in a few days, while others may need a bit longer.  The more I pushed, the worse I felt.  I needed to take a step back and make sure my body was able to get the rest it needed. 
  2. You’re going to be sore!  Bending over is nearly impossible.  Getting off the toilet can be difficult.  Getting out of bed was worse.  The first two days were really tough.  It was helpful to have someone assist me with personal grooming, cooking, and getting up from sitting or lying down.    
  3. Before my surgery, I had a slight cough.  After my surgery, that small cough was excruciating.  If you have a cold and can postpone your surgery, do so until the cough clears up; otherwise, discuss some cough remedies with your doctor.
  4. Plan to stick to a liquid diet for the first few days after surgery.  Your body is adapting to a new way of digesting food.  Stick to gelatin, clear soups, tea, and water.  Work up to solid foods.  If you eat anything greasy, you may get “phantom” gallbladder pains.  I’m nearly a month post-op and I still get pains when I eat anything too greasy.
  5. Expect to be either constipated or have diarrhea.  Sometimes, you may have both in the same day.  It’s crazy.  Increase the fiber in your diet.  It helps to bind what’s loose and loosen what’s bound.  Weird, yes.  But trust me, eat the fiber.
  6. Plan to carry some extra undergarments with you.  If you eat something too greasy, your body will let you know that it’s not ready for that, yet.  It lets you know with explosive diarrhea.  Additionally, you may want to buy some medicated pads for your backside.  (Please note – most medicated pads are nothing but pads soaked in witch hazel.  Buy some witch hazel and squirt it on toilet paper for a fraction of the cost).
  7. If you have concerns or questions as you’re getting prepped for surgery, you should feel free to ask your pre-op nurse.  If she can’t answer your question, she’ll let you know.  Your surgeon and anestheologist will come to you before the operation to chat about your pre-op questionnaire.  You can address any concerns at that time. 
  8. See your surgeon for follow-up about a week after surgery.  I would suggest getting a doctor who specializes in Internal Medicine, also known as an Internist.  If you have further questions regarding your gallbladder, direct them towards your internist.  If you have further concerns regarding surgical issues like incision care, infection, or questions about what activities can be done after surgery – direct them to your surgeon.  Directing your questions and concerns to the proper doctor can make a big difference in your treatment!
  9. Exercise should be done in moderation after surgery.  Walking is fine, but I found myself easily out of breath.  It took about two weeks to be able to take a decent walk.  I was told to wait until a month after surgery before I did sit-ups.  Things like stretching and Yoga could be done, as long as my activities didn’t cause pain.  Check with your doctor before you resume your normal activities and make sure that you’re patient with yourself. 
  10. Loose pants.  I can’t say enough about elastic waist-lines and maternity pants!  Sorry, guys, you might look weird in maternity clothes, but I know I wouldn’t think anything bad because they were a lifesaver!  The softer the front and the more give, the better I felt.  Getting in and out of the car was difficult while wearing jeans.  Stretch pants allowed me to move without constriction.

At nearly a month post-op, I have almost returned to my pre-surgery lifestyle.  I have four scars that are healing well and should disappear completely, with time.  Yes, the surgery was more painful than I had anticipated; however, I do feel much better in the long run.  I wish I could’ve cured my gallbladder problems without surgery, yet I understand that sometimes, surgery is necessary.  Contrary to all the horror stories I found on the internet, I don’t think it was as bad as it could’ve been.  If you’ve made it to the end of this article, then I wish you luck with your gallbladder problems and hope your experience is a success.

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  1. Angie,

    Thank you, so much for posting your article. I have been holding off on gallbladder surgery for almost two years. Because I wanted to make sure I am doing the right thing. You can’t get it back! Unfortunately I never know when I am going to have an attack and it can be at the worst times , especially with 6 kids! My surgery is scheduled in a couple of days. I too have a cold and cough and so does the rest of my family so hopefully this won’t make it more worse.

  2. Nice posting, Angie.

    It’s important to remember that everyone’s surgical experience will be unique to them. But I think your posting above contains a lot of useful information, tips, and thoughts.

    And oh boy, do I know what you mean about coughing not being pleasant post-op! (Fisherman’s Friend was my friend!) My coughing was not excruciating, but it just wasn’t nice. By the way, holding a pillow firmly over your belly when coughing, sneezing, or even clearing your throat is very helpful. I also would do this the first day or two when getting up from a chair or the bed.

    For myself, I really cannot say that I have experienced any significant pain following my laparoscopic cholecystectomy (gave up use of all pain relivers within 24 hours). With regard to diet, my surgeon told me upon discharge (which was the same day I had the operation) that I could eat whatever I chose. So at no time was I restricted to a liquid diet, and in fact little over a week post-op I was enjoying meals such as a rather greasy, and decidedly spicy pizza, or a dinner that was essentially just cheese, crackers and nuts (chased down with a fine Belgian ale) with no ill effects.

  3. Thank you so much for your post. I am having this surgery next week and I’m terrified! I’ve been reading way too many horror stories online (always a mistake) so it is really nice to read a post that is realistic!

  4. thank you thank you thank you! I have my surgery in a few days and this was very helpful and releived some of my fears.

  5. I just had my surgery about 3 weeks ago and i agree with everything in this article. I feel soo much better. The pains are gone and I think my family is just as relieved as i am. I would have attacks that would leave me breathless. It scared me so bad because i would have to force myself to breathe. I ended up having 40-50 BB sized gallstones and an extremely inflamed gallbladder.

  6. Thank you for this detailed information. I had my surgery a week ago. I felt bloated my first 5 days, bloated to the point that I felt that my stomach is going to explode. I could not eat, but forced myself to eat because I know that I need nutrition to heal. You are right, anything loose and stretchy is helpful. I have been wearing leggings this whole week. I felt fine yesterday with no bloating, however, I ventured into a greasy fried rice, and now I am back to bloating again. (Darn) The pain in the incisions is pretty tolerable, I just hated the bloating part. I now am having some colds and cough, and have to hold my stomach for that.
    It is very important to have a good surgeon, and good PCP meeting prior to your surgery. All my questions and anxieties were answered before I decided to push through with the surgery.
    In regards to post-surgery, our body is different. Always listen to your body’s needs.

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