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Gallbladder Surgery : The What, Why, and How

Gallbladder Surgery : The What, Why, and How
Akanksha Nigam

A gallbladder removal surgery, known as cholecystectomy, is a common medical procedure. The gallbladder is removed if someone has painful gallstones. These are small-sized stones that form in the gallbladder due to an imbalance in the substances that make up bile. These stones do not often show any symptoms. Still, they may end up blocking the flow of bile and cause irritation in the gallbladder, known as acute cholecystitis, or in the pancreas, known as acute pancreatitis.

Some of the symptoms are as follows:

  • Pain in the stomach
  • Feeling sick
  • Skin and the whites of the eyes turning yellow (jaundice)

This removal surgery is carried out in two ways:

  • Laparoscopic/Keyhole cholecystectomy – In this method, the gallbladder is removed by making many small cuts in the abdomen, inflating the abdomen with gas, and using fine surgical instruments.
  • Open Cholecystectomy – In this method, the doctor makes one large cut on the abdomen to remove the gallbladder.

The keyhole surgery is performed often because recovery and discharge from the hospital are faster (2 weeks) than the open surgery (6-8 weeks), and the patient has smaller scars than open surgery.

Is it normal to have back pain or abdominal pain after gallbladder surgery?

While keyhole surgery is less tedious in some ways, one problem with it is back pain. For some days after the procedure, slight discomfort and pain may occur in the back where the incisions were made. Generally, middle back pain is caused due to the usage of gas during the surgery.

During the procedure, the abdomen is inflated using carbon dioxide. This is done so that the surgeon can see the organs properly and get more room to work. After the surgery, carbon dioxide is released from the abdomen, and the incisions are sealed with stitches. But sometimes, some of the gas could remain in the abdomen after the procedure, which could lead to feelings of bloating, cramps, and shoulder pain. The gas causes irritation in the muscles and nerve endings of the shoulder.

However, in some cases, the pain may extend for several days. This is called post-cholecystectomy syndrome which typically begins after the surgery but in some cases, it may happen after months or years after surgery. Some of the symptoms include diarrhea, intolerance of fatty food, gas, heartburn, jaundice, and episodes of abdominal pain, among others. In some cases, frequent abdominal pain post-surgery could also happen because of gallbladder remnants.

Sometimes, a part of the gallbladder is left behind, which is referred to as a gallbladder remnant. In such a case, even though a major part of the gallbladder has been removed, there are chances that gallstones will continue to form. Eventually, causing pain and another cholecystectomy.

When can I get back to normal?

Typically, after laparoscopic cholecystectomy, a person recovers within two weeks. But there are certain lifestyle adjustments one must make to l return to a normal routine. Some points to note are:

  • Controlled diet – While it is okay to get back to eating normal food, in the absence of an organ that processed fatty foods, consuming the foods mentioned below would be beneficial in recovery.
    • Fruits and vegetables
    • Whole grains
    • Healthy proteins (seafood, poultry, etc.)
    • Beans, peas, etc.
  • Gentle Exercises – Make sure to engage in mild exercises like walking. Do not push yourself to engage in advanced exercises. Resume driving after at least a week.
  • Take time to heal – Your body has been through a lot. Allow yourself some time to relax and your wounds to heal.
  • Do not rush to resume work – Do not rush to get back to work and complete your projects. The body needs time to heal and rest.

In open surgery, these durations increase, and recovery may take longer. As the incision would be large, it could take 6 to 8 weeks to get back to normal life and resume work.



When should I consult the doctor again after my surgery? 

In case you experience any of the below-mentioned symptoms, make sure to reach out to your doctor ASAP. 

  • Symptoms that were present before the surgery
  • Severe back pain
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Redness, swelling, or discharge from the incision site
  • Jaundice

It may be possible that you did not experience any after-effects right after the surgery. This does not eliminate the chances of the symptoms arising later.. Often, people experience back pain after months or even years of surgery.

A balanced and controlled lifestyle, limited exercise, being careful at work or when going out of the house, and a regulated diet may work wonders in improving your health and aiding in a speedy recovery. Listen to your body and take the right action at the right time.


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HPFY Akanksha Nigam

Akanksha Nigam

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Akanksha Nigam has been a Health Products For You contributor since 2021. With a Masters Degree in Finance, she began her Marketing career in the banking industry. However, her interest in human ...

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