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Healing From Gallbladder Surgery: What to Expect

Healing From Gallbladder Surgery: What to Expect

Each year, about 1 million Americans are diagnosed with gallstones. One-quarter of these people will require treatment at some point, which almost always means surgery.

If you’re part of that group and you’re facing a cholecystectomy, which is the medical term for gallbladder removal surgery, you want to know what to expect afterward, especially during the first week or two of recovery.

To shed some light, our team of highly experienced general surgeons at Rockwall Surgical Specialists put together this overview to better prepare you for your recovery after we perform your gallbladder surgery.

A minimally invasive approach to gallbladder surgery

At our practice, we pride ourselves on using the most advanced surgical technologies available, and laparoscopy leads the charge. With this minimally invasive technique, we make only small incisions to perform your gallbladder surgery. 

To remove this small organ, we first insert a tiny camera that provides us with an excellent view of the surgical site on an adjacent monitor. We then insert very small instruments through other small incisions that translate the movements of our hands, allowing us to remove your gallbladder without disturbing neighboring tissues and structures.

And the best part? You’re often free to go home on the same day that we perform your gallbladder surgery, or maybe the day after.

There are times when we may need to perform open surgery, such as when your gallstones are extremely large or they’re located in a tricky location, and this requires a longer hospital stay. But that doesn’t happen too often. 

To give you an idea, surgeons performed 605,000 cholecystectomies in 2019 on an ambulatory basis (you leave the same day) in the United States. There were another 280,000 inpatient laparoscopic cholecystectomies in that same year that required a brief hospital stay — usually just one night. There were only 50,000 open procedures that required multiple nights at the hospital.

Rest assured, you typically know well in advance which approach we’re going to use, which can help you plan ahead.

The week after your laparoscopic gallbladder surgery

Laparoscopic techniques have several advantages, including:

Thanks to the small incisions and minimal tissue damage, your recovery goes much quicker — most patients recover in about a week.

During this week, we ask that you take it easy and follow our post-surgery instructions regarding cleaning the small incision sites and altering your activity levels.

For example, it’s very important to avoid lifting and strenuous exercise following surgery. Some light walking when you feel up to it is usually OK, and you should be able to climb stairs after the surgery.

When it comes to showering, you can usually remove the small dressings a day or two after the surgery and take a shower. We want you to clean and dry the incision sites and apply an antibiotic ointment.

You might have some swelling in your abdomen, which is perfectly normal, and it should subside in a few days.

You should also expect to feel fatigued. Even though we use minimally invasive techniques, it’s still surgery and your body needs a little time to bounce back. So take it easy and don’t push yourself during the first week. 

During the second week, you can start to gradually add more activities as you feel up to it, and most people can get back to work or school.

Recovery after open surgery

If we perform open surgery to remove your gallbladder, your recovery timeline will be much longer. There will also be separate instructions for incision care, which we go over with you thoroughly before you leave the hospital.

If you have more questions about your recovery and healing after gallbladder surgery, please don’t hesitate to contact us at one of our Texas locations in Rockwall, Rowlett, Greenville, Terrell, or Forney.

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