Laparoscopic Gallbladder Removal (Cholecystectomy) Patient Information from SAGES

What to Expect After Surgery?

What Should I Expect after Gallbladder Removal Surgery (Cholecystectomy)?

  • Gallbladder removal is a major abdominal operation and a certain amount of postoperative pain occurs. Transient or temporary nausea and vomiting may occur as a side effect of both the surgery and the medications used for anesthesia. This tends to be limited to 1-2 days after surgery.
  • Most patients who have a laparoscopic gallbladder removal go home from the hospital the day of surgery once liquids are tolerated. Some patients remain in the hospital overnight and go home the next morning.
  • Activity is dependent on how the patient feels. Walking is encouraged and patients can go up and down stairs the day of surgery. Patients can remove the dressings and shower the day after the operation.
  • Patients will probably be able to return to normal activities within a week’s time, including driving, light lifting and working.
  • In general, recovery should be progressive, once the patient is at home.
  • The onset of fever, yellow skin or eyes, worsening abdominal pain, distention, persistent nausea or vomiting, or drainage from the incision indicate that a complication or other problem has occurred. Your surgeon should be contacted in these instances.
  • Most patients can return to work within seven days following the laparoscopic procedure depending on the nature of your job. Patients with administrative or desk jobs usually return in a few days while those involved in manual labor or heavy lifting may require a bit more time. Patients undergoing the open procedure usually resume normal activities in four to six weeks. Other aspects of recovery can be slower with an open operation.
  • Make an appointment with your surgeon within 2-3 weeks following your operation.

What Complications Can Occur from Laparoscopic Gallbladder Removal?

While there are risks associated with any kind of operation, the vast majority of laparoscopic gallbladder removal patients experience few or no complications and quickly return to normal activities. It is important to remember that before undergoing any type of surgery — whether laparoscopic or open — you should ask your surgeon about his/her training and experience.

Complications of laparoscopic gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy) are infrequent, but include bleeding, wound infection, hernias, blood clots, or heart problems. Unintended injury to adjacent structures such as the common bile duct, colon, or small intestine may occur and may require another surgical procedure to repair it. Bile leakage into the abdomen from the tubular channels leading from the liver to the intestine may rarely occur.

Numerous medical studies show that the complication rate for laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery is comparable to or even lower than the complication rate for open gallbladder removal surgery when performed by a properly trained surgeon. The overall rate of severe complications is low.

When to Call Your Doctor After Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy?

Be sure to call your physician or surgeon if you develop any of the following:

  • Persistent fever over 101 degrees F (39 C)
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Persistent nausea or vomiting
  • Bleeding
  • Increasing abdominal swelling
  • Pain that is not relieved by your medications
  • Chills
  • Persistent cough or shortness of breath
  • Purulent drainage (pus) from any incision
  • Redness surrounding any of your incisions that is worsening or getting bigger
  • You are unable to eat or drink liquids
  • You have any other questions or concerns related to your recovery

This brochure is intended to provide a general overview of a laparoscopic gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy) surgery. It is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional medical care or a discussion between you and your surgeon about the need for a laparoscopic gallbladder removal. Specific recommendations may vary among health care professionals. If you have a question about your need for a laparoscopic gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy), your alternatives, billing or insurance coverage, or your surgeons training and experience, do not hesitate to ask your surgeon or his/her office staff about it. If you have questions about the operation or subsequent follow up, discuss them with your surgeon before or after the operation.


Color images: Atlas of Minimally Invasive Surgery, Jones DB, et al. Copyright 2006 Cine-Med.

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SOCIETY OF AMERICAN GASTROINTESTINAL AND ENDOSCOPIC SURGEONS (SAGES)
11300 West Olympic Blvd., Suite 600
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Tel:
(310) 437-0544
Fax:
(310) 437-0585
E-Mail:
publications@sages.org
Revised:
March 1, 2015
This brochure is intended to provide a general overview of a surgery. It is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional medical care or a discussion between you and your surgeon about the need for a surgery. Specific recommendations may vary among health care professionals. If you have a question about your need for a surgery, your alternatives, billing or insurance coverage, or your surgeons training and experience, do not hesitate to ask your surgeon or his/her office staff about it. If you have questions about the operation or subsequent follow up, discuss them with your surgeon before or after the operation.