Gallbladder removal surgery is a safe and effective procedure for patients experiencing frequent pain and indigestion caused by the formation of gallstones as well as a dysfunctional gallbladder.
With over 16 years of experience as a general surgeon and as a member of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons, Dr. Jonathan Lohrbach is an expert on gallbladder surgery. If you’re scheduled for gallbladder removal surgery, read on to learn about Dr. Lohrbach’s top tips for a quick and safe recovery.
Types of Gallbladder Surgery
The recovery process will be different depending on the type of gallbladder surgery you receive. There are two types:
- Laparoscopic cholecystectomy. The most common type of gallbladder surgery, this procedure involves making several small incisions and using a tiny camera called a laparoscope to remove the gallbladder. Most patients are able to go home within 24 hours after laparoscopic surgery.
- Open cholecystectomy. Also known as traditional gallbladder removal surgery, an open cholecystectomy uses one long incision to separate and remove the gallbladder. Dr. Lohrbach prefers to perform laparoscopic hand-assisted surgery to make a smaller incision before making a longer one, which is reserved for severely inflamed gallbladder cases. Patients may spend anywhere from three to five days in the hospital after receiving this procedure.
Dr. Lohrbach typically performs laparoscopic surgery, except in severe cases where an open cholecystectomy is absolutely necessary.
How long does it take to heal?
Laparoscopic gallbladder removal has a recovery time of about two weeks. For an open cholecystectomy, recovery time is about four to six weeks. Your surgeon will be able to give you a more accurate idea of how long you’ll need to recover depending on factors like your age and overall health.
8 Tips for a Quick Recovery
By staying appropriately active and being mindful of your diet, you can bolster your recovery process and make the transition back to daily life easier.
In addition to listening to your surgeon’s instructions, here are eight other things you can do to make the gallbladder surgery recovery process quicker and easier.
1) Make preparations before surgery.
While you should be able to get up and walk around when you come home from surgery, you’ll likely be sore and tired. To make things easier, especially during the first few days after surgery, it’s a good idea to have some pre-made meals ready.
You’ll also want to take time off work and make arrangements for any children or pets to be taken care of.
2) Walk every day to keep active
Dr. Lohrbach greatly emphasizes the importance of staying active during your recovery. Walking is a great way to keep your digestive system moving and prevent gas buildup. Start small by taking walks around the block, or even just around the house, and increase the pace and duration as your body allows.
Avoid strenuous exercises, like running or playing sports until your doctor gives you the OK. Stop exercising if you feel any pain.
3) Avoid dairy, meat, and fatty foods.
The gallbladder isn’t necessary to live, but it does serve a purpose—bile produced in the gallbladder helps the body digest fat.
Until your body gets used to digesting food without a gallbladder, you’ll want to avoid fatty foods like fast foods, whole milk, cheese, and desserts. Eating these types of foods too soon after surgery can cause discomfort and diarrhea.
4) Keep a food diary.
Just avoiding fatty foods may not be enough to prevent discomfort after gallbladder surgery. That’s why it’s also a good idea to keep a food diary. Logging what you eat and when will make it much easier to figure out what foods you can eat comfortably, and which foods you might want to hold off on for a while.
You won’t need to keep a food diary forever, though—most patients are able to go back to their regular diet one month after surgery.
5) Reintroduce fiber into your diet slowly.
It’s common to experience cramping and diarrhea after gallbladder surgery as your body adjusts—too much fiber can make these symptoms worse. High-fiber foods like beans, lentils, leafy greens, and oats should be reintroduced to your diet slowly, starting with small portions and gradually increasing your intake.
6) Keep your incisions clean and dry.
After surgery, you’ll either have dissolvable stitches or non-dissolvable stitches where any incisions were made. As the name suggests, dissolvable stitches will dissolve on their own in about two weeks, while non-dissolvable stitches will need to be removed by your doctor seven to ten days after surgery.
No matter what type of stitches you have, it’s important to keep the area clean and dry while you recover—failing to do so may lead to infection. You’ll be able to shower once your bandages are off, but don’t go for a soak in the tub just yet. Follow the care instructions you receive from your surgeon carefully.
7) Use ice to reduce pain and swelling.
To reduce pain and swelling around your incisions, place a soft ice-pack on your abdomen for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Repeat every hour or so as needed.
8) Use a pillow as a splint when you cough.
Laughing, sneezing, or coughing after gallbladder surgery can be painful—an easy way to mitigate the pain is to press a pillow against your abdomen when you do any of those things. The pillow acts as a splint, reducing the amount of work your abdominal muscles have to do.
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Choose An Experienced Gallbladder Surgeon
For patients who experience frequent gallbladder attacks, gallbladder removal surgery can provide significant relief. Recovering from surgery may keep you from doing the things you normally do for a short time, but on the other side is a lifetime of relief from gallbladder pain.
In addition to the gallbladder surgery recovery tips above, it’s also important to choose an experienced surgeon who specializes in gallbladder removal. The more procedures a surgeon has performed, the better their patients’ outcomes tend to be.
If you’re looking for a highly skilled and compassionate gallbladder surgeon in the Tampa area, Dr. Jonathan Lohrback is currently accepting new patients at his locations in Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Jonathon Lohrback online or call 813-788-8160.
About Dr. Jonathon Lohrbach
Jonathan Lohrbach, MD, FACS, is a Board Certified Surgeon at Florida Medical Clinic. Practicing as a general surgeon since 2004, Dr. Lohrbach has extensive experience in laparoscopic abdominal, colon, gallbladder, and hernia surgery. He stays at the forefront of cutting-edge surgical techniques to provide the best possible outcomes for his patients and has been recognized as a top performer in Da Vinci Robotic Surgery.
To learn more about Dr. Lohrbach’s education and experience, visit his profile.