Gallbladder surgery
November 26, 2017 5:50 PM   Subscribe

Hi all I am having my gallbladder out tommorow and I am totally freaking out right now. I am scared out of my mind. Is this going to be vey oainful? I know they will give me a prescription for pain pills but still.... Any advice? How did it go for y’all?
posted by barexamfreak to Health & Fitness (29 answers total)
I had mine out in 2009. IIRC it took less than 4 hours total to drive to the hospital, have the surgery, wake up in post op recovery, and be driven home again. They gave me a script for Percocet and I took exactly one after I got home. Mild abdominal discomfort for a few days, mostly with movement. The constipation from the anesthesia was honestly the worst part of the whole experience, as I foolishly didn't take any Colace or Miralax until days later.

I can be a highly anxious person, and I am also a nurse so I conjure up all sorts of ridiculous unlikely scenarios to frighten myself further. I sympathize with you, but trust's no big deal. You'll be fine.
posted by little mouth at 6:04 PM on November 26, 2017

I had mine out maybe 5 years ago. Like little mouth, I got pain meds, but only needed the first one. It didn't really hurt. I remember being tired easily for a week afterwards. That was about it. I'm sure everything will go swimmingly!
posted by pangolin party at 6:15 PM on November 26, 2017

Yes, especially laparoscopic surgery is nothing to worry about - you may feel so well that you overexert yourself too soon, and if so could end up with a hernia.
posted by mmiddle at 6:23 PM on November 26, 2017

My gangrenous little bugger came out in emergency surgery that went really well. (Except that I woke up during, but that's another matter. You almost certainly will not!)

I didn't use my pain pump at all, and the nurse even asked me about that.

My shoulder was very sore and uncomfortable due to referred pain related to getting inflating gas in the abdomen. That I did not expect.
posted by jgirl at 6:33 PM on November 26, 2017

Two main things for a good recovery: get plenty of rest (the effects of general anesthesia can linger), and do not deviate from any instructions they give you regarding limits on lifting, exercise, etc.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 6:36 PM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I also only took the prescription painkillers for a day or two after surgery. Definitely take stool softeners early and often. It wasn't fun, but it wasn't as bad as I'd feared.
posted by 168 at 6:36 PM on November 26, 2017

It was very easy. Like others, I only took the pain meds the first day. The worst parts for me: Shoulder pain from the gas they use to inflate your abdomen, and a sore throat from the breathing tube. I was eating at the hospital, and eating almost normally by the next day. Oh, and seconding the stool softeners if you're taking the pain meds.
posted by Cloudberry Sky at 6:44 PM on November 26, 2017

My surgery was a breeze. The days leading up to it were a bit rough because I had really painful pancreatitis and couldn't eat (thank you, morphine) but once the surgery happened it was easy. The incisions were a little tender afterward, but that went away fast.
posted by mermaidcafe at 6:47 PM on November 26, 2017

Nthing my experience wasn't bad. They had to make an extra incision in me because it was tough to get to, but they were able to still get it laproscopically. You'll likely walk out of the hospital the same day. Like others my pain was minimal as long as I took the advice regarding what not do to, how to stand up, etc. I could have gone back to work after 3 days, but I had some CTO to burn and an understanding boss so I stayed home a whole week. I was cleared for full activity except heavy lifting after 3 weeks, and that restriction was lifted about a month and a half in. I also had the odd shoulder pain mentioned above; this was actually the worst of the pain and it was mostly just annoying.

For me, honestly, the biggest issue was sleeping on my back for the first few weeks. It was likely worse for me because I am obese, but I'm a side / stomach sleeper and it took some getting used to. Otherwise it was no problem. You'll be fine!
posted by SquidLips at 6:51 PM on November 26, 2017

My friend got laparoscopic gallbladder removal last year. She was in and out in hours on a Friday, slept all day Saturday ("because she could, not because she needed to" according to her), had some close girlfriends over for brunch on Sunday (we brought the food), and was back at work managing a restaurant on Monday.
posted by erst at 6:52 PM on November 26, 2017

TL;DR - just had mine out, and it seriously wasn’t that big of a deal. You’ll be ok in like 2 weeks.

I am still recovering from having mine removed literally 2 weeks ago - I’m currently living as normal, just dealing with some itching at the incision sites and sometimes a little tiny bit of achiness if I move the wrong way. :)

The experience has been interesting, but not very scary in hindsight! I had never had surgery before. I suffered a pretty rough gallbladder attack that lasted a few days - my one tiny non-obstructive stone had become less tiny and very obstructive! Compared to the pain I was experiencing from that, even the worst pain after the surgery when I forgot to take pain meds for a few extra hours was no worse!

At 24 weeks pregnant, in my mid 20s, and as a Canadian, my experience may be very different from yours. I was in & out of the emergency room over 2 days as the pain refused to subside; it went from general abdominal/back pain with vomiting to being concentrated in my very inflamed gallbladder. It hurt so much, even if I merely breathed wrong! I was booked for an ultrasound of the offending organ in the morning on a Monday, and proceeded to surgery later that afternoon. I had laparoscopic or keyhole surgery with 4 small incisions. The surgery itself took about 3 hours, & that’s from being wheeled into the OR and having some extra ultrasounds (and answering all kinds of medical questions for the millionth time) to returning to the hospital room. I went home the next day around noon. The surgical staff and nurses all acted as if this was a very routine thing, which helped me feel fairly at ease.

I was prescribed a small dose of Dilaudid for 3 days and used Tylenol otherwise. The first few days after surgery I couldn’t do much - I felt achey and not very flexible! It was very very nice to eat food after fasting/having no appetite for several days. I can finally sleep on my side now - the worst part of the whole thing, aside from the pain obviously, was only being able to sleep on my back propped up with pillows! Within a week I found I could walk around and function almost normally, minus not lifting anything over 15 lbs and some loss of flexibility i.e. in bending down. I think the typical recommendation is no lifting heavy things for a week. I was recommended to avoid that for 6 weeks. I am due for a follow up at the hospital 6 weeks post surgery to make sure everything is healed properly, which seems to be the case! My belly button incision is still bruised and healing more slowly, but I assume that is due to it being where my torso bends & the pregnancy adding some pressure as well.

General anaesthetic was something I had never experienced and had heard horror stories about, but it honestly worked like a charm. I was out & back in what felt like a blink. I tend to be a little anxious about medical stuff, and I have not been particularly traumatized by this! I am under the impression that it is one of the most common surgeries performed, and recovery isn’t usually difficult at all. I don’t even have any dietary restrictions, though I have noticed that things run through me a little faster/bowel movements occur a little more frequently. Personally I had no trouble with constipation past the first 2 days post-surgery.

You won’t regret having it out! Good riddance to a pesky little organ. The best thing about having mine removed was that the pain of surgery and recovery had an end in sight...and the result is never having to deal with another gall bladder attack again! The handful I’ve had have been miserable. The biggest scar I have is a bit over a centimetre wise and I don’t think they will be too noticeable. I left my steri strips on for almost a week, and they used glue to close the incisions, which has been very effective!

I hope that helps...again, I’m sure your experience with this will differ from mine! But having heard from multiple family members who have had theirs removed, hearing many stories from others who have also had this surgery, and now experiencing it myself - it’s so good to get it over with & really a quite routine surgery with very few risks. The recovery process will all feel like a vague memory at some point. I wish you the best & I hope all goes as well as it can!

Oh - I went through a lot of waiting, and swirling anxious thoughts were a thing at times. I advise finding as many ways to distract yourself as you can! Music, a book, daydreaming positive things, phone apps, crosswords, whatever makes the time pass in between things.
posted by nukacherry at 6:54 PM on November 26, 2017

You can also expect a sore throat from being intubated & probably tons of passing gas as well...
posted by nukacherry at 6:56 PM on November 26, 2017

Not specifically gallbladder, but I had emergency laproscopic abdominal surgery earlier this year. I got out of recovery around midnight, was home by noon, and back in the office the next day. I only worked half days for a couple days because I got tired more easily than usual, but there wasn't any pain that wasn't covered by a couple of Advil.

As mmiddle and SquidLips mentioned, I found the most difficult part to be sticking to the general post-op restrictions and not sleeping on my back for a while.
posted by Ellen Alleyne at 7:16 PM on November 26, 2017

I had mine out sometime between 2011-2013 (I honestly don't remember) and while mine went a bit off the beaten path as the infection was quite severe, meaning the surgery took four times as long as it should have and I was left stuck in hospital for many day, the most agonizing part of it was the gas getting stuck in my body, primarily in my shoulders.

99% of these surgeries do not go the way they did for me, and everybody I've spoken to who has had their gallbladder removed via keyhole was back on their feet and more or less fighting fit within 24-48 hours.

The best relief for residual gas pain was scalding hot high-pressure showers. Mmm, so good.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:21 PM on November 26, 2017

I had mine out in mid 2017. I had very little pain. The worst effects for me were nausea and constipation from the Percocet, both of which were relieved by gravol and stool softeners/laxatives. Sleep as much as possible and eat as healthy as possible afterwards. You will be feeling tired but otherwise normal after less than 24 hours.
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:27 PM on November 26, 2017

I had mine out in 2001. Didn't even spend a night in the hospital. The incisions were painful for about a week, but the Vicodin they prescribed me gave me panic attacks so I only used Advil.
posted by Daily Alice at 7:40 PM on November 26, 2017

I had mine out 20 years ago. (Ugh, I’m old). It was day surgery. My only issue was nausea the next day, probably due to Vicodin. Get anti-nausea medication! Other than that, it was a fast recovery and I don’t miss it.
posted by shrabster at 7:42 PM on November 26, 2017

I only missed a couple of days of work with mine and had very little discomfort that taking Percocet those days didn't address. But I had had major abdominal surgery only a couple of years earlier, so perhaps my standards were abnormal.
posted by praemunire at 7:49 PM on November 26, 2017

Glad you asked, barexamfreak. Mine comes out in about 6 weeks. The responses here are very consistent with what I have been told to expect. This is one of the more common surgeries out there, which I find comforting. Relax, everything will be fine very soon.
posted by cooper green at 7:55 PM on November 26, 2017

I had emergency surgery to remove my gall bladder in 2010, and really, it wasn't so bad. They kept me overnight after the surgery, and I was a little nervous about how much pain I would be in once I was at home and away from the morphine, but it really wasn't bad at all. Just don't push yourself -- take it very easy afterward, take the pain meds as prescribed, and you'll be fine. The worst part was not being able to shower for... I can't remember if it was 24 or 48 hours after I got home, but it was long enough to drive me up a wall. I felt SO grimy. And I tired out really quickly for the next week or so.
posted by sarcasticah at 8:06 PM on November 26, 2017

Was it fear that caused you to not go through with the surgery after you asked this same question in 2015? If so I urge you to just get it done. It seems like it's been bothering you for a long time, and you've asked six questions about it without seeming to find anything helpful in people's answers.
posted by donnagirl at 8:11 PM on November 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

My 80+-year-old FIL had his out two weeks ago. He was out bike riding this weekend.
posted by Toddles at 8:39 PM on November 26, 2017

I would willingly get my gallbladder removed again if I had to. I didn’t have to take any prescription pain meds. My abs were sore as if I had done lots of crunches. I slept a lot after coming home and was back at work a week later.
posted by delight at 8:52 PM on November 26, 2017

Chances are, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how easy it is.
posted by delight at 8:55 PM on November 26, 2017

I had mine out 9 years ago, and it was planned to be laparoscopic surgery but ended up being the full open operation. This is *really* unlikely to happen to you, and it happened to me because of a weird anatomical variant they found once they were in, which meant it was dangerous to carry on with the keyhole procedure. Recovery was straightforward but took a long time, and I was out of action for some weeks.

I STILL don't regret having the surgery, and that recovery was STILL better than gallbladder attacks, no contest.
posted by altolinguistic at 1:24 AM on November 27, 2017

I had mine out almost two years ago. I was really scared before the surgery. Surgery is scary! General anesthesia is scary! However, the good thing about general is that once your pre-surgery stuff is done, you will be knocked the fuck out! You can't be anxious and scared anymore once you are out. Honestly, I remember nothing from the time they wheeled me into the operating room, my surgeon greeted me and...BOOM. I woke up in recovery, I was fine. I was high as a kite on dilaudid, they gave me cookies and apple juice and it was the first food with any sugar or fat I'd had in weeks and it was AMAZING.

I was never in a lot of pain. I guess I have medium-to-high pain tolerance. The percocets they gave me managed it nicely. I slept fine. I had no gas pain. And I felt SO MUCH BETTER once it was out. My gall bladder, even when I wasn't having attacks, made me feel gassy and sick to my stomach almost all the time. I had the surgery on a Friday, I was back at work on Wednesday. And it was TOTALLY FINE.

You'll feel so much better with it out and then you can stop worrying about it. Because you worry about your gall bladder A LOT.
posted by Aquifer at 6:35 AM on November 27, 2017

Everyone I know who has had gallbladder surgery feels so much better afterwards. Your fear is not irrational; all surgery has some risk, but it is very small in this case. You will have plenty of pain relief. It's so easy to focus on the fear. Distract yourself by planning what movies you'll watch as you lounge about recovering.
posted by theora55 at 8:40 AM on November 27, 2017

It's been a few years since I had mine out (laparascopic) and the tiny incision scars have healed up so much that I can barely locate them, and that's without any specific scar-minimization effort on my part.

The procedure was surprisingly quick. I was on prescription pain meds for a day or two after, not long at all. The constipation effect is real so I too urge you to start the stool softeners beforehand.

My only major discomfort in the whole thing was the residual CO2 making its way up to my shoulders, as others upthread have shared. Even that felt more like a muscle cramp than anything unbearable.

Long story short: if they told me that I miraculously grew another gallbladder and that it needed to come out tomorrow? I would shrug my shoulders and say "okay let's do it" without any panic or dread. In the grand scheme of things it's a pretty insignificant transaction.
posted by komara at 9:04 AM on November 27, 2017

As Aquifer mentioned - you are going to feel so much better quite quickly afterwards - you'll be free from a constant level of sickness and pain you might not have been aware of.

I ended up with a longer hospital stay since mine ended up inflamed before it was finally removed - I say finally because I was originally kicked off the operation list due to 3 broken jaws in a pub brawl - hooray Far North Queensland -_-....

The long term consequence I've found is that I'm now very sensitive to fatty foods. There's no longer a lying, writhing on the floor in agony reaction as there was pre-op, but overindulgence will result in a rather speedy dash to the bathroom.
posted by gomichild at 5:56 PM on November 28, 2017

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