4 Ways to Ensure a Strong Recovery After Gallbladder Surgery

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4 Ways to Ensure a Strong Recovery After Gallbladder Surgery

The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ in the upper right quadrant of your abdomen that helps with digestion. It looks pouch-like and stores bile manufactured in the liver that helps break down fats. When you eat fatty food, the bile leaves the gallbladder and travels to the small intestine, where the breakdown occurs.

Sometimes, the materials that makeup bile, especially cholesterol and bilirubin, remain in the gallbladder, where they collect into “stones” that can produce pain and other uncomfortable symptoms. The only sure way of treating gallstones is surgical removal of the organ, and there are many different techniques a doctor can use.

At Advanced Surgical Associates of Northern Minnesota, Dr. John Bollins and his team specialize in minimally invasive and robotic-assisted gallbladder surgery for patients struggling with gallstones. Just as important as preparing for the surgery is recovering, and the team wants to share four good ways to ensure a strong recovery.

The problem with gallstones

Having gallstones is known as cholelithiasis. Gallstones don’t necessarily cause a problem; many people with them are asymptomatic. If that’s you, you can leave them alone.

However, gallstones may cause problems if they create a blockage in any of the bile ducts. The backup of bile leads to pain and inflammation in your organs, including the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder. If left untreated, it can cause serious complications.

A blockage may cause:

  • Abdominal pain, especially in the upper right abdomen
  • Jaundice (yellowish skin or yellowing of the whites of the eyes)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain between shoulder blades
  • Pain after a high-fat meal
  • Pain in your right shoulder
  • Dark urine
  • Pale stool

If the pain lasts several hours or longer, it’s a sign of cholecystitis, inflammation of the gallbladder. Call the office for an urgent appointment or visit the nearest emergency room.

The laparoscopic cholecystectomy procedure

The cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) procedure is performed outpatient, meaning you get to go home the same day.

After administering the anesthesia, Dr. Bollins:

  1. Makes a small incision (buttonhole size) near your navel and two to three in the top right part of your abdomen
  2. Inserts a small tube with carbon dioxide to inflate your abdomen, offering easier access to your gallbladder
  3. Uses a laparoscope (a small tool with a light and camera at the end) to project an image of the abdomen onto a large screen for easy viewing
  4. Removes the gallbladder with thin, small surgical tools inserted through the incisions
  5. Releases the gas from your abdomen
  6. Closes the incisions with stitches

When you’ve woken up sufficiently, you’re free to go, though you will need someone to drive you home.

Four ways to ensure a strong recovery

There are many ways to ensure a strong recovery; here are four.

1. Follow your doctor’s aftercare instructions exactly

We give you aftercare instructions for a reason: to ensure you heal quickly and safely. Make sure you follow all the instructions on the list, and if you have a question, call the office for clarification. We’re here to help you help yourself.

2. Move around, but not too much

You’ll be tired and need rest to recover, but that doesn’t mean you should stay in bed all day. Moving around, even just walking, helps your body get stronger. It also prevents clot formation in your blood vessels. Try increasing your activity level each day, but don’t exercise until Dr. Bollins says you can.

3. Eat well

It may be tempting to grab the nearest package for your meals if you're in pain and tired, but that won't help you heal. Eat balanced meals (try making and freezing portions ahead of your procedure) with plenty of lean protein, but don't indulge in fatty foods for at least a week. Your digestive system can function without your gallbladder, but it takes about a week for your body to find a workaround for its absence.

Also, be sure to drink lots of water, both to hydrate and to speed healing.

4. Use ice

The doctor may have given you a prescription for a painkiller, but don't discount the power of ice. Use a cold pack wrapped in a towel on the incision site several times daily to reduce swelling and pain.

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of gallstones, it’s time to come into Advanced Surgical Associates of Northern Minnesota for an evaluation, diagnosis, and effective treatment. We can also provide you with more strategies to recover well. To schedule, give us a call at our 

Hibbing, Duluth, or Ely, Minnesota office, or book your appointment online.