Both laparoscopic and open gallbladder removal require general anesthesia. However, laparoscopic surgery is now an outpatient procedure and is associated with less post-operative pain and a more rapid overall recovery. You should expect to be hospitalized for pain control following open gallbladder surgery for approximately 3-5 days.
Following laparoscopic surgery, you may feel some discomfort both in your upper abdomen and right shoulder, and at the incision sites (especially the one near your belly button). You may also feel bloated. You will be given a prescription for a pain medication. The narcotic (usually Vicoden) can be taken every four hours as needed. You should avoid driving while taking the narcotic because it can make you drowsy. It is not uncommon to require pain medication frequently for the first 48 hours.
Your incisions will be dressed with gauze and a clear, water-resistant dressing. You may shower over the dressing at any time. You may remove your dressings in 48 hours and shower over the incisions then. Leave the small pieces of tape in place, and they will either fall off by themselves, or I will remove them in the office on follow-up. Avoid bathing or swimming for two weeks. It is normal to feel a hardness or lump under your incisions. This is part of the normal healing process and will resolve in several weeks. Once the Steri-Strips are removed, you may use Neosporin on the incisions. If the wounds look slightly crusty, you may clean them daily with a Q-tip moistened in hydrogen peroxide mixed 1:1 with water.
If you had open gallbladder surgery, you will be discharged to home with staples in place, which will be removed during your post-operative visit. You may shower over your incision. No specific care need be applied to the incision. Avoid bathing/swimming for two weeks.
It is generally best to avoid activities, which cause a lot of abdominal wall motion, such as running, sit-ups, contact sports, tennis and golf for at least two weeks. If you had open gallbladder surgery, you should refrain from such activities for four weeks. Routine activities, such as moving around the house, walking up stairs, walking outdoors, etc. are encouraged. As you increase your level of activity, your discomfort may also increase, but this is not harmful. As long as your pain is not severe, you may continue with regular activity. For laparoscopic surgery, most patients return to work after one week. For open surgery, most patients require 3-4 weeks for recovery prior to returning to work.
No restrictions, although the general anesthesia may make you nauseated the first night. If this occurs, try clear liquids (broth, flat soda, water, juice) and gradually ease into a normal diet. Stay away from spicy or fried foods for the first few days. It is common to get full quickly when eating, have some loose stools, and occasionally feel bloated after surgery. These symptoms usually improve within a few weeks, and you will find that many foods will no longer bother you. Both the anesthesia and medications can cause constipation. You should include fruit, vegetables, cereals and 4-6 glasses of water a day in your diet. If you do not have a bowel movement within 48 hours of surgery, you may take one ounce of milk of magnesia.
You should follow-up in the office in two weeks for your post-operative visit.