Have you recently been told that you need to have your gallbladder removed? While it may come as a bit of a shock to you, this is a very common procedure that general surgeons are familiar with. This procedure, called cholecystectomy, is relatively safe with few side effects and complications to worry about. But just like with any surgery, it’s best to learn everything possible, ask questions and know what to expect before, during and after. Below we cover what to expect from gallbladder removal surgery, thereby dispelling the fear, stress or anxiety you may be feeling.
What are the signs and symptoms to watch for?
Before you get to the point of needing your gallbladder removed, there are usually warning signs and symptoms. These should act as red flags prompting you to make an appointment with your doctor.
Some of the more common signs and symptoms include:
- Severe belly pain
You may have just one of these or more commonly a handful of these symptoms. The symptoms can happen very suddenly and fast and will be extremely evident to you.
Visit the doctor immediately
If you have any of the above-mentioned signs, it’s best to visit your doctor immediately. If the symptoms are severe, it’s best to visit the emergency clinic and not allow the situation to get any worse. While the gallbladder does perform a job in your body, it’s not vital. This is why doctors often recommend removal if it is causing issues.
Prepping for surgery
Once a doctor recommends removal, it’s time to prepare for surgery. Because this surgery is so common, there is nothing to get too stressed and anxious about. The good news is that once it is removed, you’ll feel much better.
Doctors will usually provide patients with a leaflet or information on what they need to do to prepare for surgery. Make sure to follow all the instructions.
What to expect during the surgery
When you are first taken into the procedure room you will be given anaesthesia drugs, which means you’ll be asleep and won’t be aware of the surgery. This makes for a stress-free and painless surgical experience for patients.
Once you are asleep, a tube is inserted down your throat to ensure you can breathe well during the procedure. The surgeon then makes the small incisions for the laparoscopic cholecystectomy, or they make a larger incision should you require open cholecystectomy. Both types of surgery take 1-2 hours, so they are relatively fast.
General surgeons can perform the surgery
In terms of who will perform the surgery, it will usually be experienced general surgeons. You may want to visit a clinic such as Circle Health Group, which offers specialist general surgeons who are familiar with such things as gallbladder removal and acute cholecystitis – which is inflammation of the gallbladder. The surgeons will be able to discuss your symptoms with you, order diagnostic tests and then diagnose the issue. If removal is necessary, they can perform a laparoscopic cholecystectomy.
How long does recovery take?
Immediately after the procedure, you will be taken to a recovery area. You will stay there until you are awake, and the anaesthesia has worn off. The overall recovery process is usually quite fast and simple. If you’ve had laparoscopic surgery, it’s likely you can go home that day as long as there are no complications. Should your recovery go smoothly, you can expect to be able to go back to regular activities after two weeks. It’s wise to book the first couple of days off work, but after that, you will be able to return.
Should you require open surgery instead of laparoscopic, the recovery will be slower. You will have to remain in the hospital for a few days after the surgery and then it takes up to eight weeks to recover enough to go back to normal activities. Doctors often recommend you book a week off work following the procedure to aid in the recovery and you may be in the hospital for much of that week.
Do you need to make any lifestyle changes?
Finally, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor about potential lifestyle changes moving forward after surgery. It is often recommended that you limit the number of fatty foods you eat since they are harder to digest and you won’t have your gallbladder to help you. It’s best to keep your daily fat intake at a maximum of 30%. You may also need to limit the number of vegetables, nuts, whole grains and seeds you eat since they can cause gas and bloating.
By learning everything you can about gallbladder removal surgery, you’ll be able to go into the procedure feeling informed and confident.