Gallbladder removal laparoscopically due to gallstones
April 22, 2015 1:21 PM   Subscribe

Hi I would like to get your experience with laparoscopic surgery? How long did they keep you there? How was your recovery? How much pain? What did you experience after? I am young-27 and have to get this done. I am simply terrified
posted by barexamfreak to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I had it done many years ago. Outpatient - arrive morning out by evening. Zero pain (I actually felt better afterwards, considering the state of my gall bladder at the time.) I moved gingerly or a few days after, but that was all. Easy peasy. Nothing to fear.
posted by dzot at 1:31 PM on April 22, 2015

I was in for my gallbladder about 10 years ago, and my appendix 5 years ago, and it was day surgery. I went in, was put to sleep, driven home, and had minimal pain from each.

The pain was a little worse the second day, but I think that was just the anesthesia wearing off, and it was more as if I'd done a billion stomach crunches (as if I know what that feels like!!) than anything else.

You may have a weird series of lumps under your skin from the made my stomach look like a bowling ball for a couple of months, but it's no big deal.
posted by xingcat at 1:33 PM on April 22, 2015

I had it done about three years ago. I was admitted from the ER, and they kept bumping my surgery subsequently, so I was in the hospital 3 days I think, but I was released the same day after my surgery, if I remember correctly. dzot is right, there was very little pain - I think I was just taking 800mg ibuprofen afterwards, and that managed it. I did have to give myself bloodthinner injections for a few days afterwards, which aside from being squicky, wasn't a big deal. I was off work for about 5 days after surgery, and on the 4th or 5th day I felt ready to go back.

What I would caution you about is some of the digestive impacts it will have. My doctor glossed over these, saying that after a few months everything would normalize. This has not been the case for me, and is not for a lot of people. Do some research and make sure that having your gallbladder removed is truly the best option- it may be better in the long run to manage the attacks you have via pain meds (I was admitted on my first attack, and was not told that there were any other options besides surgery).
posted by bluloo at 1:36 PM on April 22, 2015

Hi, don't be terrified, it's going to be okay! I had my gallbladder out about 10 years ago. Mine was an emergency surgery, but they still only kept me overnight. The recovery was not too bad. I was in some pain (not dire pain, but maybe about 4 to 5 on the pain scale) for a couple of days, but after that I was fine. I had a couple of tiny scars that have faded.
Some people say they have to make changes to their diet and cannot handle rich or fatty foods after gallbladder removal. I haven't really experienced that issue.
posted by hiker U. at 1:36 PM on April 22, 2015

I just helped my boyfriend's mother with this surgery. She was tired and achy the first few days but her pain level was honestly pretty low. There's a post-surgical restriction on lifting and you should really abide by that -- doing too much too soon will just result in a longer and more painful healing process.

It was a day surgery so she arrived at the hospital in the early morning and left that afternoon. She was off work for a week.
posted by kate blank at 1:37 PM on April 22, 2015

I have two friends who have had their gallbladders out via laparoscopic surgery. One had outpatient surgery like dzot and xingcat describe - she said she felt better pretty much immediately and had only minor pain, mostly muscle pain in her abdominal muscles afterward. The second one was in the hospital already - admitted from the ER, but was released the morning after her surgery. Again, she wasn't in much pain from the surgery, just kind of tired and sore.
posted by bedhead at 1:38 PM on April 22, 2015

Hello! I got this surgery done last year, a month after giving birth. Let me tell you: if you have been through any amount of gallstone pain, this will be an absolute piece of cake.

Here is a highly technical diagram of the four small scars I have. They healed really easily. They're raised and the biggest one is about 1.5 inches long, but who cares.

I'm not even sure I took any hydrocodone; I think they gave me Versed in the outpatient center, and that was it. I took some regular Tylenol (maybe it was ibuprofen... i forget) later that night, and I don't think I took any the next day. Now, I am told that I am a bit freakish with my pain tolerance, but there didn't seem to be any pain to tolerate.

I went under before I even noticed that the drugs were coming, and I woke up easily. I think it took maybe an hour. I hung around, enjoying the graham crackers. They encouraged me to do so.

I was not supposed to lift more than 20 pounds for two weeks afterwards. It was a bit annoying to require my husband (who, uh, had a broken ankle) to carry our newborn in her carrier up two flights of stairs, and I asked my friend for help bringing groceries in once, but it wasn't a big deal at all.

I hadn't been able to eat anything but melon and tuna for like a year because of the pregnancy-related gallbladder shenanigans. Things were really, really bad -- like, projectile vomiting bad. Five days later, I ate full-fat ice cream. I have eaten way too much full-fat ice cream since then.

You'll be fine.
posted by St. Hubbins at 1:41 PM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Just to echo. My wife had it done about 3 or 4 years ago, went home the same day. Some pain but nothing really major. I think she stayed home from work for a week or two, but she has the kind of job that lets her work from home so that's easy to do. I forget the exact timing. But for surgery, it wasn't bad at all.
posted by primethyme at 1:47 PM on April 22, 2015

I had this done 8 years ago, I was 33 at the time. Similar incisions/scars to St. Hubbins's diagram above.

Recovery was much quicker than an appendectomy I'd had a few years earlier, done the old-fashioned way. I was home next day, and I was at the beach a week later, with only minor discomfort in between.

As bluloo notes above, some people find they never recover full digestive functionality. I had no problems with it. I was little off for a few days, but within a week or two, I was back to pizza and beer as normal, and have had no problems since.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:56 PM on April 22, 2015

I had it done about 10 years ago. I had a small complication explained to me as think about the gall bladder as a bag of marbles and the stones as marbles and a bunch of stones fell out into my system giving me pancreatitis and some pain for a few days. I was told it was highly unusual and something to do with the fact I had stones more like sand than big stones. The pain was still less than what the gall stone attacks had been and I was home 4 days later, which was the same length of time a friend of mine who had this done was in without complications, though this was in Australia so they may be more generous with hospital times.

Honestly I think the farting was the worst part as they puff you up like a balloon to see what they are doing, so much gas passing. Don't worry about pain too much as now a days hospitals & doctors are big on pain management as it helps healing so don't try & brave anything out & let docs/nurses know if you do have any pain. Oh and as others have said, I was eating like normal within a few weeks, though I find I am a bit more prone to diarrhea than I remember being before the op.
posted by wwax at 1:58 PM on April 22, 2015

Had this done last year. Surgery took about 1 1/2 hours (I was told). I was home by that afternoon, took a couple of weeks off from work (a little fatigue, tenderness at the site of incisions), and was basically back to normal 3-4 weeks after. No diet issues. Took the painkillers for about two days, then just switched to tylenol after. I'm super scaredy when it comes to this kind of stuff. This was much easier than having just one gallbladder attack.
posted by Gilbert at 2:07 PM on April 22, 2015

My Dad (in his late 70's) just got this done. He got there in the AM and left in the afternoon. It was so fast, easy, and painless, that we joke that he drove by the hospital, threw his gallbladder out the window, and drove home. There was a bit of that residual air pain (from when they puff up your abdomen during surgery), but it was very manageable. Just take your pain pills on the recommended schedule and you'll be fine. We made him take it easy for a few days, but he was already spry and wanting to get back to his woodshop after a day.
posted by quince at 2:10 PM on April 22, 2015

I had that operation about 6 months ago. They kept me in hospital overnight after the op, but would have let me go home the same day if I'd really wanted to.

Pain: not much at all. I was moving a bit gingerly for the first day, but when they discharged me from hospital with a prescription for painkillers, I forgot to pick them and then didn't bother once I realised I was managing without. I had some pain around one of the incision sites that the surgeon thought was minor damage to a nerve - it was a sort of burning pain - but it was only occasional, and the pain was compared to gall bladder attacks. It went away after a couple of weeks.

Recovery: I was tired easily for a week or two, and I wish I'd had more chance to just lounge around on bed or sofa recovering. I had a heavy 6 month old baby at the time and lugging her around didn't help. But, I was back at work after 7 days (at a desk job) and honestly think I'd have been fine to go back sooner. YMMV though.

No problems with digestion or diet since, and it has been a massive relief to have the gallstone symptoms and worries about another attack gone from my life.
posted by Catseye at 2:46 PM on April 22, 2015

That should read, "the pain was nothing compared to gall bladder attacks".
posted by Catseye at 2:54 PM on April 22, 2015

This particular surgery one of THE most common medical procedures there is, performed something like 600000 times per year.

My Dad has had it, and my wife's had it. You'll be fine.
posted by intermod at 3:38 PM on April 22, 2015

I had mine out about 3 months ago, 4 months after having my baby. My surgery was emergency and I also had to have ERCP to removed gallstones lodged in the bile duct. I was on very intense painkillers in the hospital but managed with norco when I was discharged the evening after the ERCP. I was in the hospital for about 2 and a half days.

The worst post-op pain was actually in my shoulder, from the gas. The lifting restriction seemed reasonable in the hospital but was a bit of a pain. I had a 6 week lifting restriction.

Biggest piece of advice from me is to take your stool softeners if you get narcotics. Seriously.
posted by tealcake at 3:58 PM on April 22, 2015

Biscotti, who is sitting beside me, had this done around Christmas of 2011. She says:

*Be sure to stop eating early the day they say to stop eating; she stopped at noon the day before

*In her case, tylenol didn't cut it and she took percocet (prescribed for the initial gallbladder attack in case it repeated) for a few days, and she says don't let them just send you away with tylenol/ an nsaid / both. "Insist on good pain management," she says. Unless you have something lying around, you will probably have to be a strong advocate for yourself.

*She slept sitting up for a couple of days

*Stock up on silly shit to watch for a couple-few days

*A helper to help you get up and sit down is nice for a day or two

*Easy to digest finger food like crackers and other snacks like pudding.

But overall she says "This is not that big a deal" and "You'll be amazed at how much you sleep."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:16 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had mine out a few years ago (3, I think) and was totally terrified right up 'til they put me under.. I know, now, that there was absolutely no reason for me to be scared at all. (Easier said than done, right?)

Got there early in the day, filled in some forms, answered some questions, changed into a gown. They knocked me out (so fast!) and I woke up about an hour later with 3 tiny glued-up, bandaged holes in.

The next bit was a blur, but I walked down the hallway to pee, declined to eat some saltine crackers, and went home to sit on the sofa and watch TV with a bunch of pillows and blankets, and my husband was there to keep me company. I slept off and on for the rest of the day.

I slept semi-sitting for the first few nights; I got one of those heavy, overly stuffed pillows with arms and sort of propped myself up with it.

I took percs as prescribed for the first two days (I think) - and then learnt a valuable lesson about stool softeners. Ahem. I stopped taking the percs.

Within a few days I was feeling much better - but was still sore. Not painful, just a dull ache feeling. I had booked 2 weeks off from work (as instructed by my surgeon) but probably could have gone back after one week, given how I was feeling, and given that I can avoid heavy lifting and strenuous activities in my job.

Since then, I've been able to eat normally (and was delighted to eat chicken wings without getting sick for the first time in a decade!) and haven't had any negative effects whatsoever from my diet. It took a few days for things to settle back to normal, of course, but my understanding is that surgery (and painkillers) can mess you up for a bit.

All told, it was not a big deal at all. Absolutely, positively not worth being terrified over, in retrospect. Follow your surgeon's instructions before and after, arrange your life so you can relax and recover afterward, and have someone to keep you company (and bring you drinks, help you get up off of the sofa for the first day or two, etc.) .. You'll be fine and SO glad that you did it!
posted by VioletU at 5:44 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's a piece of cake. Afterwards, you want to try to get moving as much as you can and don't be surprised if your shoulder hurts. It's because they puff you up with gas and sometimes it settles up into your shoulder...totally normal but freaky if you're not expecting it.

You may find it hard to get super comfortable because of the gas. I was better sitting upright and pulling in my knees instead of laying down, and getting up to move every 15 minutes or so really helped get rid of the gas.

Seriously, piece of cake.
posted by kinetic at 5:48 PM on April 22, 2015

I echo everyone above. Had mine out in July, absolutely no big deal. I think I took one Percocet, but it made me feel worse, so I just took some Tylenol after that..and only for a few days. The only thing I wish I had known was that there was an incision in my navel, and that's where they took the gallbladder out. It was pretty tender, especially if my waistband rubbed. But other than that, it was so much less dramatic than I was worried about. You'll do great!
posted by Cloudberry Sky at 6:09 PM on April 22, 2015

Don't be like me. Don't delay. For various reasons I waited. Too long.

I went in for the laproscopic surgery but due to inflammation of the gall bladder they couldn't get the gall bladder out so they "converted" the operation to the old school big incision. 3 days in hospital, a big scar, loss of abdominal muscle tone and months of recovery.

Compared to that the laproscope will be cake.
posted by Zedcaster at 6:26 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

For a while after you might want to go for movies _then_ dinner cos a rich meal might send you to the facilities super quick.

The op itself was smooth, feel free to politely and firmly decline the totally unnecessary Versed (which some people like me react very poorly to and can have side effects) although you might not get the chance unless you ask about it - you really don't need it unless you have a fear of seeing the inside of the operating room before you get your general anesthetic. If they keep insisting nothing bad happens if you take it then ask what bad happens if you don't - they really don't have a good answer to that.
posted by meepmeow at 6:45 PM on April 22, 2015

I had it done about 22 years ago. They did keep me overnight. I remember being sick to my stomach that night in the hospital, I assume from the anesthesia. I also recall that after I got home, I had the shoulder pain that a couple other people have referred to. Mostly it is annoying because it’s like – why is my shoulder hurting?? But that passes. In any case, the surgery was a piece of cake in comparison to the absolutely excruciating pain of my gall bladder attacks. So don't worry, just do it. -- Oh, also, I had no digestive issues after the surgery.
posted by merejane at 7:37 PM on April 22, 2015

Had one done two decades ago. Went home the next day and walked a mile. I've never looked back. No complications. No more pain. 3 little bitty scars.
posted by clarkstonian at 7:59 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Lots more description and discussion in this thread including my version.

I'd add to other accounts: if you would conceivably indulge in cannabis, the day or two after this surgery is a good time to have some on hand. Also some ice cream or other cold item to offset any throat pain from intubation.
posted by zadcat at 9:19 PM on April 22, 2015

I'm going to echo @Zedcaster.

I could have died from an infected gall bladder bursting (like an infected appendix). I let it go on way too long for stupid reasons that I don't want to go into here. I was able to have my surgery laparoscopically, thank goodness, but I had 6 days in the hospital -- 3 days on IV antibiotics prior to the surgery. I also had 48+ hours of no sleep and excruciating pain before I finally gave in, went to the ER, and was admitted immediately for that 6 day stay. Not to mention all the gall bladder attacks in the prior 10 years which felt like being stabbed in the stomach. [I've never been stabbed in the stomach though so perhaps that is worse.]

Bottom line -- get the operation.
posted by elmay at 7:56 AM on April 23, 2015

This is my question plus post-surgery update, which may be relevant to your interests.

It was a day surgery, no overnight stay. The surgery itself didn't take very long, and I was awake and lucid (if a little groggy) shortly afterward, but you have to stay put in a recovery room until the anesthesia is done with the rest of your internal organs. It took a couple of hours for my bladder to wake the hell up. It wasn't painful or anything, just boring to be chugging Sprite and hot tea and tottering repeatedly to the bathroom to try to pee again.

I was sore like I'd been punched in the gut and exhausted. Then I was just tired and a little achy.Then I was fine. Some people get by with just OTC pain meds, but I needed Vicodin for the first few days, then switched to ibuprofen for another several days.

8 years later, my scars are barely noticeable. There is a fine silvery wavy line inside my navel that only I can discern, the two little poke-holes on my side are totally vanished, and the incision below my sternum is a slightly raised smudgy vertical line that's now only a half-inch long. My digestion returned to mostly-normal, just take it slow with fat in your diet for a couple of weeks.

I was terrified and had never had any kind of surgery before (except wisdom teeth) and I can reassuringly say that laparoscopic gallbladder surgery is really, really not terrible. You're gonna be fine.
posted by desuetude at 9:55 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had my gall bladder taken out laparoscopicaly in 2008, when I was 28. I had gallstones after I had my first child, I had mine taken out about 6 weeks after having her. The pain from the gallstones was almost as bad as my natural labor had been.
The procedure was very brief, about 2 hours long, and after about an hour of being awake, I was allowed to go home. I felt so good afterward that I actually overdid it, going swimming about two days later. I paid for that with some nausea, but felt better pretty quickly. I didn't need pain meds beyond Tylenol, and I was able to eat and drink pretty normally after a couple of days.
I had 5 little incision scars, which are barely visible now. Good luck, and hope you feel better soon!
posted by percor at 10:52 AM on April 23, 2015

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