Recovering from gallbladder removal surgery

How long it takes to recover from gallbladder removal surgery ( cholecystectomy) depends on whether you had a laparoscopic (keyhole) or open procedure.

Most people who have keyhole surgery are able toleave hospital on the same day as the operation. It will usually take around two weeks to return to your normal activities.

After open surgery, you'll usuallyhave to stayin hospital for three to five days and your recovery time will be longer. It can take around six to eight weeks to return to your normal activities.

In either case, you'll need to arrange for someone to take you home from hospital. Someone should also stay with you for at least 24 hours if you go home the same day as your operation, as you may still befeeling the effects of the anaesthetic.

Possible side effects of surgery

You can live perfectly normally without a gallbladder, so there aren't usually any long-term effects from gallbladder removal surgery.

However, it's common to experience some temporary side effects while you recover, including:

  • swollen, bruised and painful wounds thisshould start to improve within a few days; regular painkillers such as paracetamol may help reduce thediscomfort
  • feeling sick you may feel sick as a result of the anaesthetic or painkillers you've been given, butthis should pass quickly
  • pain in your tummy and shoulders this is a result of the gas used to inflate yourtummy and should pass after a couple of days;painkillers can be taken to relieve the discomfort
  • bloating, Wind and diarrhoea this can last a few weeks; eating high-fibre food such as fruit, vegetables, brown rice and wholemeal breadcan help to firm up your stools, and yourGP may also be able to prescribe medication to help
  • fatigue, mood swings and irritability these feelings should improve as you recover

These side effects are completely normal and not usually a cause for concern.You only need to contact your GP, the hospital or NHS 111 for advice if they're particularly severe or persistent.

Looking after your wounds

In many cases, dissolvable stitches will be used to close your wounds. These should start to disappear bythemselves within a week or two.

If non-dissolvable stitches were used, you'll usually need to have them removed by a nurse at your GP surgery after 7-10 days. You'll be given an appointment for this before you leave hospital.

You'll be told about how to look after your wound and stitches, including how long any dressings need to stay on, when they should be replaced and when you can start having showers or baths. These will probablybe red and obvious at first, but should fade over time.

Getting back to normal

Your surgeon can give you specific advice about when you can return to your normal activities.Generally speaking, after keyhole surgery you can:

  • eat a normal diet straight away you can return to a normal diet even if you were advised to avoid certain foods before your operation, although you should try to have a generally healthy and balanced diet (read more about diet after gallbladder surgery )
  • do gentle exercises, such as walking butbe careful not topush yourself too hard too soon andask your surgeon or GP foradvice about returning to more strenuous exercise
  • drive again after a week or so but first make sure you can wear a seatbelt andpractice an emergency stop without feeling any discomfort
  • have sex as soon as you feel up to it but try not to place weight on your wounds until they've healed
  • return to work after 10-14 days , depending on what your job involves

It can take a bit longer to return to these activities after open gallbladder removal surgery. For example, you may not be able to drive or return to workfor aroundfour toeight weeks.

When to get medical advice

Contact your GP, the hospital or NHS 111 for advice if you experience:

  • a return of your original symptoms
  • severe, excessive or increasing pain
  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • persistently feeling sick and/or vomiting
  • increasing swelling, redness or discharge from a wound
  • yellowing of the skin and whites of your eyes ( jaundice )
  • dark urine and pale stools

Theseproblems could be a sign of a complication of gallbladder removal surgery .

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016