Am I supposed to be healing this slowly? Or is this quick?
April 8, 2013 4:43 AM   Subscribe

5 days ago, had general anesthesia lapropscopic surgery for salpingo oopherectomy (badly scarred right ovary and tube removed), appendectomy, D&C and exploratory surgery found massive adhesions and one intestinal cyst. Everything was cleaned up, I was sent home that afternoon with 2 days of Percocet and given basic after-care instructions.

YANAD, YANMD...Also, I've already told all this to my doctor who isn't worried.

(Demographic details: 48 yo healthy, don't smoke or take drugs, rarely drink, have Celiac disease, athletic, 3 kids, previous surgery for PID, 1 C-section, history of right-sided ovarian pain for about 30 years...finally went in to get the ovary removed.)

But I wonder if there's something more I could be doing to heal quickly.

The pain is definitely decreasing, but here's where I still am currently:

walking, getting up, sitting down, (pretty much anything other than flat on my back) hurts at around a 6 on a 1-10 scale. Ibuprofen does nothing to help. I have no more (and won't be prescribed) painkillers. My abdomen is still hugely distended from the gas (I can lie on my stomach on a heating pad but it is beyond painful to do that) and my shoulders also really still hurt (I know all of that is typical, but 5 days later?). Lying on my side pulling up my knees offers no relief.

It's not like stomach or intestinal gas that I can get rid of the old fashioned ways, and gas pills do nothing. I'm not passing gas in either direction.

The incisions don't hurt but internally where the surgeon removed all the hurts worse than the original pain ever did. Goes from a dull ache to sharp stabbing pains.

I'm exhausted. But I can take full breaths.

What I'm doing: lying down, trying to get up and walk around for 10 minutes at a time every hour (when I'm awake), drinking gallons of water, taking 600mg of Ibuprofen every 6 hours, sleeping a lot, 3 rounds of relaxation meditation.

I absolutely can't force food down. No appetite. So I haven't eaten in 6 days. But I have had sugary tea and electrolyte drinks and I'm peeing normally. (I'm also spotting still, from the D&C).

So my question...what else can I be doing to feel better sooner? Certain things to eat and drink? Hot baths?

And even though I read that recovery from this type of surgery can range from 3 days to several weeks until you're even able to get off the couch, why is it that I'm recovering so damned slowly?
posted by kinetic to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You need to talk to your doctor. If your doctor is not willing to Rx for pain control go and get another doctor. Yes, total pain in the ass, but 6 on a 10 scale untouched by OTCs should be addressed.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:49 AM on April 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: You've had an awful lot of organs poked at, and five days isn't that long at all. I agree that you need to talk to your doctor about pain medication (you need to be able to rest comfortably to heal!), and ask about the gas again.
posted by Specklet at 4:53 AM on April 8, 2013

You need to eat something to get your digestion moving. Try a nutritional shake (from a can if necessary or something like whey protein powder). Your body can't heal without food for so long. Are you minimising your pain and discomfort with your doctor? It's common with folks who have dealt with pain for a long time.
posted by barnone at 5:03 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sounds awful. I had a partial nephrectomy via open surgery 4 weeks ago (a 10 inch incision right across and through the abdominal muscles), and I was off painkillers altogether within 5 days. I don't think I would have rated my pain at a 6 at any point, even right after the operation. I'd definitely go back to the doctor if I were you - even if only for peace of mind.
posted by bifter at 5:08 AM on April 8, 2013

Have you pooped? Constipation can be very painful, cause gas and decreased appetite. If this is you, you could try suppository plus docusate pills plus yougurt/probiotic. But talk to your doctor first cause you had a lot of bowel stuff done. And you might get better response from doctor if you just schedule appointment and go, rather than calling on phone. It's hard to evaluate things over the phone.
posted by SyraCarol at 5:23 AM on April 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

I had a laparoscopy for a perforated IUD that was eventually found just under my ribcage. There was a medical error that resulted in a cervical laceration that also needed stitching up. Five days on I wasn't all better or pain-free, but I was definitely eating (I ate the whole time) and suffered only dull pains, not stabbing ones.

This does not sound right. Please call your doctor, and if they do not actually help you feel better, then get a different doctor.
posted by Andrhia at 5:28 AM on April 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry that you feel so crappy. If your doctor says you're okay, I'm inclined to think you're okay, but you know your body best. Do you know what sort of specific symptoms you should watch out for? Do you have a follow-up appointment?

In my limited experience, doctors have an idea of how long it will take to recover from surgery the same way I have an idea of how many miles New York is from San Francisco ( ... thousands?) I had minor surgery in September to deal with a superficial foot thing I've had for years. The doctor said I'd be able to run again a week later. I don't think I tried for a month. He also said if I had the surgery on Friday, I could go back to work Monday no problem. I went but I was weak from the painkillers making me sick.

Even the best doctor in the world is not an expert on what you feel right now. You need to advocate for yourself.
posted by kat518 at 6:01 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't take a bath. With fresh wounds from surgery, infection is a risk.

Two days of painkillers sounds awfully low to me. Have you talked to your doctor about better pain management? I'd give your doctor a call.
posted by k8lin at 6:12 AM on April 8, 2013

Best answer: When I had my c-section, I was off the percosets at about five days but continued the ibuprofen for another 4 days or so but I took it every 4-5 hours. Can you try that to see if you can get ahead of the pain? I dont think i ever would have rated my pain at a six. In the hospital they seemed concerned when I hit a 4. I would agree that a 6 on the pain scale should warrant some more assistance from your doctor. I second the advice to try another doctor if your doctor won't assist with stronger pain medication for even a few more days.

If you haven't had a bowel movement yet, maybe try stool softeners and gas drops until you have one. I felt much better after although it was somewhat terrifying.

Perhaps also try walking as much as you can stand. I found it helped with the gas as well and I started feeling better the more I walked.

Peppermint tea also helped with my gas.
posted by polkadot at 6:20 AM on April 8, 2013

Seconding constipation. Stool softeners and laxatives may help here. Having bowel surgery makes you constipated and taking narcotics makes it worse. The constipation can cause bad abdominal pain and loss of appetite. Stay as well hydrated as you can.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:30 AM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Granted, I was a much younger 26, but I bounced back really quick from my own unilateral salpingo-oophrectomy. The bit about your abdomen still being distended seems especially troubling.

You say your doctor isn't worried about this. If the last time you spoke to your doctor was a couple days ago, I'd call back; if it was today, I'd get a second opinion.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:42 AM on April 8, 2013

When I had a similar surgery, I was sent home with many, many, many, many more painkillers than I wound up needing or using, and I kept taking them for over ten days. Contact your doctor and a) tell them your pain is very much not in control; b) tell them you are not passing gas, which is potentially serious; and c) that you are not eating. These are all very important, and your doctor needs to know them today.
posted by jennyjenny at 7:52 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and my gas-related pain was much worse than my everything-else related pain, and lasted for days. It was about a week before my shoulders were not by far the most painful part of me.
posted by jennyjenny at 7:54 AM on April 8, 2013

I don't know if your surgery was of the type where they inflate your abdomen (I think it's fairly common in laproscopic surgeries), but in my experience that gas hurts like hell and is really difficult to get rid of other than waiting it out. It does eventually get better as your activity increases - a heating pad or hot water bottle might help in the meantime. I think you should talk to your doctor again, anyway. I find that some doctors are less sensitive to what they perceive as "normal discomfort" after surgery or another procedure, especially if it's something that there aren't a lot of solutions for besides time.

On the other hand, you didn't mention bowel movements but I was going to say pretty much exactly what treehorn+bunny wrote. I was prescribed a couple days' worth of a senna laxative to take after my abdominal surgery.
posted by camyram at 7:54 AM on April 8, 2013

I have no more (and won't be prescribed) painkillers.

The ibuprofen you're taking as a substitute isn't a painkiller; it's an anti-inflammatory. It will not help you with pain unless the cause of your pain is swelling.

At the very least, consider switching to Tylenol 3, or whatever the strongest acetominophen-plus-coedine thing is you can send somebody to procure in your area is, but I think jennyjenny's advice above is the least you should be doing for yourself here.
posted by mhoye at 9:17 AM on April 8, 2013

mhoye, I seem to remember you're in Canada -- you absolutely cannot get T3 here without a prescription. This falls under the "painkillers she can't be prescribed" territory.

OP, you need to call your doctor. Whether or not this is normal, it isn't OK.
posted by KathrynT at 10:02 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've had laproscopic abdominal surgery -- a different one than you had -- and in my experience what you're experiencing is normal except that a) I was given LOTS more painkillers, b) I was still in the hospital five days after my surgery; were you really discharged same day???, and c) I was walking a lot more (probably as a result of a) and b)).

Walking is really the name of the game after laproscopic surgery. It speeds healing, wakes up your gut, and maybe most importantly dissipates the gas that is causing your shoulder pain. Every time I got up to walk while in the hospital I had terrible pains in my shoulders and could barely stand up straight, but by the end of a long walk felt much better.

It sounds like your inactivity is worsening your pain which is worsening your inactivity and so on and so forth. It's good that you are keeping to a walking schedule but you should be trying to move around and spend as little time lying in bed as possible -- even sitting in a chair to rest rather than lying in bed is preferred. If you are in too much pain to be lightly active, you need painkillers so that you can move around.

My surgeon recommended 350 mg acetaminophen (that's 1 regular strength Tylenol) every four hours whether I felt I needed it or not. One regular strength Tylenol is unlikely to make a dent in post-surgical pain but if you take it like clockwork and build up a base level in your bloodstream it actually becomes extremely effective. I had oxy for breakthrough pain but only needed to take it once as long as I stuck to the Tylenol schedule.
posted by telegraph at 10:21 AM on April 8, 2013

To clarify, are you saying you haven't passed gas in 5 days?
posted by moira at 10:23 AM on April 8, 2013

Response by poster: To clarify: I have passed gas and had bowel movements. Ate something today and I'm walking around more. I didn't realize being flat on my back was not so good, so I stopped doing that and I'm either walking, upright, or lying on my stomach. I do feel somewhat better and no stabbing pains...but the surgeon said those are probably internal healing where she did a lot of cutting.
posted by kinetic at 2:26 PM on April 8, 2013

Response by poster: In case anyone undergoes something similar, I saw my surgeon and the answer is yes, my body did all the right things. She didn't want to give me pain meds because she had removed what was causing the pain and felt that my pain receptors would get screwed up if I continued. After another day I didn't need anything and really felt fine.

Thanks for all the help.
posted by kinetic at 2:28 PM on April 13, 2013

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