I had a Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal surgery) on March 18, which was a long time coming. I considered whether removing my gallbladder was necessary, which my doctor said it was, and I chose to do it during my spring break to minimize disruption to my students’ instruction. I posted about my conditions before, during, and after surgery on my blog and Facebook. This post is to give you a bit more information about my recovery and to answer some questions I’ve received about having my gallbladder out.
In the final consult before the surgery, the surgeon told me I would be his first or second surgery of the day, and that I should expect to be released to head home before noon. Several people questioned whether I would be able to walk into the hospital at 7am, undergo general anesthesia, and walk out before noon. The answer to that question was a resounding, “Yep!” I was a bit loopy from the meds, but I was able to walk, talk, and make what felt like reasonably-sound decisions. Accompanied by my “responsible adult,” I walked around the pharmacy and paid for my own prescription immediately following the surgery. I was even lucid enough to try figure out the best price on the over-the-counter medications.
What can you eat the day of gallbladder removal?
I asked my surgeon that question several times and in a number of different ways. His answer was always, “I don’t dictate to my patients what they can and cannot eat following gallbladder removal. Your body will determine what you can and cannot tolerate.” It turns out, my body was able to handle everything that I threw at it. Although I ate jello and chicken soup the day of the surgery, I also ended up eating several items that I normally eat, including peanut butter, which was on the list of foods to be wary of. It’s recommended that folks stay away from foods containing fat because the body has to re-learn how to digest them. Since my diet is already very low in fat, it was not a problem for me.
How long before you can walk after gallbladder surgery?
I was walking within a couple of hours. The surgeon recommended I get up and move around periodically to help dissipate the CO2 gas that was left in my abdomen as a result of insufflation. I was up and walking around at home the day of the surgery with no troubles. The day after the surgery I spent nearly an hour walking around Kroger doing a little browsing and light shopping. By the second day after the surgery I was cooking with no difficulties.
How long were you on pain meds after lap chole?
I was written a prescription for Hydrocodone with Acetaminophen (Vicodin), which I was instructed to take 1-2 times per day as necessary. I’m not a fan of consuming controlled substances, but I’m also not a fan of being in crippling pain. For the first day, I took one pain pill immediately upon receiving the prescription and another just before going to bed. The second day, I stopped taking the prescription pain medication and switched to Tylenol, which I took once in the morning, once at lunch, and once before going to bed. The third day after the surgery I stopped taking all pain medications.
I had 4 incisions — 3 small incisions along my right ribcage and one larger one in my navel. None of them itched, stung, or burned, but they were tender to the touch. Inside, my abs were sore from being punctured and sewn back together. It was evident when I moved, but the pain wasn’t bad enough to cause me to wince or otherwise “make a face.” The stitches used are self-dissolving sutures, so I don’t have to go back to have them removed. Steri Strips (strong, sterile packing tape, basically) were used to close the skin, and gauze and water-proof stickers were placed over that. The water-proof layer was kept on for 2 days, and the Steri Strips came off after 5-7 days. The incisions are healing nicely.
How much does gallbladder removal cost?
Without insurance, I have no idea how much I would be out. I’ll be happy to share my out-of-pocket expense information with you. To see my PCP after my initial gallbladder attack was $25.00. He sent me for an ultrasound on my gallbladder, which cost about $150 including the charges for having the gallbladder and liver photographed and analyzed. My PCP called me within an hour of the ultrasound to tell me that the results were inconclusive and that I needed an MRI on my liver and gallbladder. He didn’t charge for that.
The cost for MRI on my liver and gallbladder was around $250, including the imaging and analysis with insurance, and the results did not come back immediately. I waited over the weekend to find out the results of the MRI, which cleared me of liver troubles but were still inconclusive on the gallbladder. This, then, prompted a referral to the specialist, whose initial consult cost $35.00. Because I took my time deciding whether to have gallbladder removal surgery at all, he required an additional consult at $35.00 before the surgery itself.
The surgeon’s fees for removing my gallbladder were in the $260-$270 territory, but the majority of the cost came from the hospital’s facility fees. Although I haven’t received the final bill from the hospital, it is anticipated to be in the neighborhood of $750-$850. Having your gallbladder removed, even with insurance, is not cheap. Adding in the cost for prescription and over-the-counter aftercare and main medications, the entire affair cost about $1,650.00. Happy Birthday!
Does having your gallbladder out give you gas, diarrhea, constipation?
Having a laparoscopic surgery of any kind fills your abdomen with gas that naturally works itself out of you over the course of a few days following surgery. As far as the intestinal tract goes, I had a relatively easy experience. I was told to initially expect constipation, which is common following anesthesia. I took an over-the-counter stool softener for the first 3-4 days. After things got going again, I didn’t have any troubles with diarrhea whatsoever, even though I was eating exactly the same diet I was before having my gallbladder taken out. Either the amount of fat in my diet is sufficiently low that my digestive tract is able to handle it without concentrated bile, or my liver is just that good. My stool is slightly softer now than it used to be, but it is nothing uncontrollable, and certainly not diarrhea.
How soon can you drive after gallbladder removal surgery?
My surgeon told me that I could drive as soon as I was off pain medications. Since I stopped taking prescription pain medications the night of the surgery, I drove the next day. I will warn you that jarring motions like bumps and sharp turns caused me a bit of discomfort that first day. I was careful when turning into parking lots. The pain of transferring a car title at the DMV was worse than the pain of driving, however.
When can you return to work after having a gallbladder taken out?
I would have been able to return to work the next day. The advice the surgeon gave me was, “You’ll turn the corner around the third day.” My surgery was early Monday morning. I could have worked a half day on Tuesday, a full day Wednesday, and I would have been comfortable teaching on Thursday. I would have given manual labor at least a week.
How long should you wait to exercise after gallbladder surgery?
I took a baby-steps approach to this one. My surgeon recommended two weeks. I started walking the day of the surgery. I walked at least an hour the day after. I drove, walked, and carried some items the following day. I built up my strength and endurance on a day-by-day basis. Friday or Saturday night (I don’t remember which), I actually went out to a bar and socialized until an unreasonably late hour. Seven days after my surgery I returned to the elliptical machine at the gym for 30 minutes. On the 8th day, I did 45 minutes. On the 9th day, I did an hour. On the 11th or 12th day I did my regular workout with 30 minutes of cardio and a resistance routine. I even did core exercises, which turned out not to be painful at all.
Were there any complications at all?
I had two attacks that I refer to as phantom gallbladder attacks the weekend after the surgery. I had the same gas-like pains in the right side of my body. Both of these attacks came at night when I was in the bed, and both passed quickly. One lasted no more than 5 minutes, and the other was about 20 minutes. I read online that if sludge or stones were left, these pains could simply be those things working out of my system. My follow-up appointment with the surgeon is coming up in about a week, and I plan to discuss this with him. Since I haven’t had any issues in a week, I’m confident that the matter has resolved itself.
Did you experience weight gain after gallbladder removal?
The morning of the surgery, I weighed myself at home. The next morning, I weighed myself expecting to weigh just a few ounces less. I mean, parts had been removed, right? I weighed 6-7 pounds more. Googling this, I read that receiving intravenous fluids during a surgery often caused a weight gain of 5-10 pounds. Coupled with swelling, this explained my weight gain. This weight did go away within a week, and by the time I returned to the weight loss clinic to weigh, I was down about a pound for the week, and 2.2 pounds for the two-week period of the surgery and the week following it. Having my gallbladder removed has not caused difficulty in continuing to lose weight.
What other questions do you have about my surgery, my current condition, or anything else? I’m pretty much an open book, and I’m happy to share what I can to help calm any fears or doubt you might have about a similar situation. I know I appreciated the kind words and comments I received on Facebook and privately from those of you who had already been through this procedure before.
Thanks for being on this journey with me!
- Gallbladder Surgery Scheduled (needlesspounds.com)
- Gallbladder Removal (needlesspounds.com)
- The Liver and Weight Loss (totallyinsaneweightloss.wordpress.com)