Post-gallbladder-surgery problems
February 19, 2012 3:43 PM   Subscribe

Post-gallbladder surgery complications question - have you had your gallbladder out? (TMI inside, be warned)

My partner had their gallbladder removed yesterday and was sent home today. Apparently the gallbladder was badly damaged and almost gangrenous. Just now, my partner threw up a lot - a lot - of bile and fluid. We spoke to the nurse at the hospital who had discharged them. She asked some questions and did not recommend that we come back in. The surgeon's office is closed and there is apparently no way to reach him/a proxy before tomorrow. Partner does not have a fever; incisions look good.

I am going to follow up with the surgeon tomorrow first thing, and if there is any change for the worse overnight we will be at the ER as fast as I can get us there. You are not my doctor. Have you had any experience with complications (minor or serious) post-gallbladder removal or in specific with vomiting shortly after surgery? Should we go to the ER anyway? (Partner does not want to go. Vomiting is given as an occasional post-surgery problem when I consult Dr. Google.)
posted by Frowner to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
IANAD, IANYD, but my partner did have complications (but not vomiting) which eventually resulted in fever as a result of infection in one of the incisions (which apparently does happen from time to time). In that instance the thing to watch out for is swings in temperature/getting hot and cold or if any of the incisions start to look (or smell) nasty. I'd say that if either develops, or if the vomiting becomes persistent then get down to ER straight away. In any case, do follow it up with the surgeon straight away tomorrow.
posted by Chairboy at 3:57 PM on February 19, 2012

I wonder if he could still have a gallstone trapped in the common bile duct requiring an ERCP procedure. This happened to me, but they were able to determine that I needed the 2nd procedure during the cholecystectomy. I'm SO not a doctor, so please take this with a grain of sand. Sounds like you've done the right thing by calling the nurse and staying vigilant tonight.
posted by MediaMer at 4:05 PM on February 19, 2012

I vomited and then dry heaved for 18 hours after I had my gallbladder. My surgeon said that vomiting after that surgery is not uncommon.
posted by crankylex at 4:12 PM on February 19, 2012

My husband also vomited after the surgery, but it was attributed to side effects of the anesthesia. Your plan sounds pretty sound in the meantime. I agree that continued vomiting or fever would be signs to get things checked out more urgently, but you're probably ok until morning.
posted by goggie at 4:26 PM on February 19, 2012

The painkillers made me vomit so severely that I eventually stopped them because the vomiting hurt more than the post-surgical pain. But I was throwing up most of that day--the wife says I woke up every 2-3 hours to throw up and walk around to burp up the gas before passing back out again--and there was a lot of weird looking stuff in there. I was (and am) fine.

It could be the pills, the anesthesia, all the stuff in her belly from the surgery, etc. I'd say make sure she has fluids to drink because it's easy to get dehydrated and try to keep her trying to drink. It took me a while before I could keep anything down.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:25 PM on February 19, 2012

Can you call the doctor on-call, describe symptoms, and get a prescription for meds filled quickly if needed? After his gallstone surgery, my husband developed a high fever and it turned out to be a severe infection (either at the incision or involving his stent, I don't remember precisely) and I had to get antibiotics for him right away. He wound up needing another surgical procedure as soon as the the hospital could schedule it, within a couple of days.

If you can't call and get meds quickly, then I would take him to the ER either now or in the morning...
posted by lgandme0717 at 6:31 PM on February 19, 2012

I vomited for maybe 24 hours after I had my gall bladder removed. I think it's a fairly common reaction. You might want to go get some gentle foods to help your partner ease back in to eating post surgery. After I stopped puking, I just lived on chicken broth, jello, and sherbet for a couple of days even though the surgeon insisted I should be able to eat normally right away. I also stopped taking the painkillers because they seemed to nauseate me.
posted by katie at 8:25 PM on February 19, 2012

I apparently vomited copiously very soon after my surgery, a lot of what the nurse in the recovery room called 'leftover crap in the system. (I was in recovery until closing, due to some issues with me coming out from the anaesthesia.)

I recommend, also, oatmeal or cream of wheat - make it very liquidy and easy to get in.

Check your insurance - they may have a nurse-call service that you can use to ask questions of. I had that, which made me VERY happy when a couple of things happened post-surgery that confused and scared me.

(the first was a leak of 'serous fluid' from the incision, which turned out to be relatively minor and not an infection; the second was a few days later, as the fat-soluble anesthetic chemicals leached out of my tissues, making everything and I mean everything taste in a manner I only can use one word to describe: 'eldritch'.)

But if you have access to a dial-a-nurse service, use it. They will go all up and down about how they should not be considered full medical advice as they are only a phone service, but having someone tell me that they understood how worried I was and listening to me babble, then talking me down, was incalculably helpful - and if there's a problem (like it sounds there might be), it might be the same for you.
posted by mephron at 9:40 PM on February 19, 2012

I had my gallbladder removed last October. I did not vomit when this happened, but it is 100% normal as a side effect. It could be from anesthesia (which I personally had problems with for a couple months post-surgery) or from painkillers or just the body recuperating. Your partner just lost an organ. The body is trying to figure itself out. I would keep a close watch, if a fever starts to spike, other complications arise, etc, I would follow through with your plan of the ER. Otherwise, if everything else seems ok and your partner can rest in a reasonably comfortable manner, I think waiting to follow up with the surgeon tomorrow is ok.

The dial-a-nurse service is a really good idea, too.
posted by itsacover at 10:14 AM on February 20, 2012

Opiod painkillers (like Vicodin) are notorious for making people yarf, especially when taken on an empty stomach. But to be on the safe side, if there's an advice nurse or someone like that you can call please do so. Better safe than sorry.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:17 AM on February 20, 2012

Update: bad news, good news. Bad news was that my partner continued to be sick overnight. The surgeon's office advised waiting it out through the morning, which actually wasn't a good idea. We went back to the ER, partner severely dehydrated. [Note - you may think something is post-surgery lethargy, but consider carefully...I realized after some IV fluids went in that it was really dehydration lethargy, which is NO GOOD.]

Good news, though, is that sometimes after surgery the stomach and intestines just...don't want to start working at a normal rate right away. No adhesions, no infection, apparently no remaining gallstones, labs were good. Just a super-duper sluggish stomach. Which means another day or two in the hospital on IV fluids but (assuming no other problems develop - per surgeon, incisions look good; per CAT scan no leaky stuff) nothing intrusive. Partner has gone from lethargic to grumpy, which is par for the course.

I only wish we'd gone to the ER sooner. We might as well have gone last night.

A suggestion to mefites: if you think you should go to the ER (unless you're a giant anxious hypochondriac) you should probably go.
posted by Frowner at 9:00 PM on February 20, 2012

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