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What are the After Effects of Gall Bladder Surgery?

By Marco Sumayao
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The most immediate after effects of gall bladder surgery are grogginess, abdominal pain and discomfort, and occasional shoulder pain. These are all direct side effects of the surgical procedure and should fade during recovery. It is not uncommon for patients to experience nausea shortly after the surgery, as well. Many patients report feeling constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn in the days that follow gall bladder surgery. Long-term after effects include dramatic weight gain and subsequent health risks.

Patients usually feel pain in their abdominal regions shortly after a gall bladder removal, often aggravated by lying in certain positions. This is because the wounds created during surgery have not completely healed yet. In some cases, patients will require a tube to drain any excess bile out of the body, causing additional discomfort. Patients with low tolerance for medication used during surgery can feel sickly, fatigued, and dizzy immediately after the procedure.

Shoulder pain is one of the more uncommon after effects of gall bladder surgery and is felt when the patient regains consciousness. The pain is likely due to the necessary inflation of the abdomen during the procedure, although this typically accounts more for soreness in the abdomen rather than the shoulders. The gas also often makes patients in recovery feel bloated. The excess air usually exits the body through burping or flatulence.

During recovery, the patient's gastrointestinal tract will need to readjust and normalize. Excessive strain on the tissue surrounding the abdomen can make defecating difficult for the patient. On the other hand, excessive bile leaking into the abdomen due to the absence of the gall bladder can irritate the digestive tract, resulting in diarrhea. Some patients might experience both of these after effects of gall bladder surgery during recovery.

Without the gall bladder to store bile, the liver tends to produce less of the enzyme. This negatively impacts the body's ability to break down fat, increasing the risk of abnormal weight gain. Medical professionals often advise gall bladder removal patients to reduce the amount of fat in their diets. This helps prevent obesity, which can lead to cardiovascular disease, among other serious health problems.

Although cases are rare, some individuals report developing bile stones after gall bladder removal. This occurs when the liver produces excess bile and the body is unable to dispose of it. The bile can harden in the surrounding area, becoming stone-like and causing intense pain and discomfort. A second surgical procedure might be required if the patient is unable to pass the stones naturally.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1002274 — On Oct 12, 2019

Had my gallbladder removed early Monday morning, day surgery, laparoscopically. I felt decent when released to go home. Later that evening and night, I had abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. It ended about 4 a.m. Tuesday morning. I felt OK otherwise, except for some pain at the incision locations (4). Wednesday morning, I felt fair when I got up. I had a light breakfast and started having burning below sternum, nausea and vomiting. I contacted my doctor's office and they phoned in nausea meds and said it may be my body adapting to not having a gallbladder. The nausea ended about 6 p.m. I slept well that night and felt OK Thursday morning. When my appetite returns, I just need to eat light.

By MsFeb14 — On Dec 21, 2013

I had mine removed one week ago today after having excruciating pain during our cruise vacation. The ship's doctor treated me with drugs and painkillers via an IV and told me to check myself into the hospital as soon as we disembarked. Of course, after seven days of drugs, I was feeling great and continued on to Disneyworld for a few days.

I was feeling 100 percent fine after we were home and unpacked until I reached over and ate a couple of peanuts. Yikes, same pain so I self medicated with the ship's leftover drugs. Saw my primary the next day and I was hospitalized the next day. I had surgery last Saturday, but one of the stones moved from the "sandpile" and became a blockage in one of the ducts to the pancreas.

So last Sunday they went back in (down the throat) to get the stone, and a 45 minute procedure turned into more than an hour and a half. I was there for five days and my GI surgeon (second) wants me on a full liquid diet for one or two more weeks.

By the way, in seven weeks I have to go back under to have the stents removed from the second surgery. I just thought I'd mention that I was in the "rare case" group with both surgeries so that might explain why I am uncomfortable just eating jello.

By anon343231 — On Jul 28, 2013

If you sit at a desk and do not lift anything over five pounds, you can return to work in three days. That is if you had the laparascope surgery.

By anon330974 — On Apr 19, 2013

I had my gallbladder out 10 days ago. I had really big gallstones and they where so painful. The doctors told me that my gallbladder was enlarged. I couldn't walk for three days due to the pressure of standing up. (it was laparoscopic) after those three days I was fine, unless I bent over. I was a little constipated but other that, great.

I get a little uncomfortable at night when the leftover gas moves from side to side. I have two more weeks and they said I should be fine.

By wavy58 — On Jun 14, 2012

My gall bladder surgery side effects were unpleasant, but they were not as bad as the pain I experienced before going through with it. I knew that I would eventually get over the consequences of surgery, but if I had kept my gall bladder, the pain never would have gone away.

The main discomfort I felt after surgery was the bloating and constipation. I had painful trapped gas, and it seemed like hardly any of it was coming out of me. The constipation only made things worse.

I stopped eating fatty foods and ate plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit. I also ate only whole grain cereals and bread. I ate small portions to keep the bloating down, and it eventually worked itself out.

By kylee07drg — On Jun 13, 2012

@shell4life – It depends on whether you are having the surgery where they make incisions or the laparoscopic kind. The kind where they have to cut through your ab muscles requires more recovery time than the kind where they use a laser.

My husband had his gall bladder removed decades ago, and he had actual incisions. Since he worked in construction, the doctor told him to take 6 weeks off. He couldn't be doing any heavy lifting while trying to heal.

However, I've had friends who work desk jobs like you who have had the laparoscopic surgery, and they were back at work in about three days. It really depends on your level of pain and how much medication you have to take to alleviate it, too. Your boss probably wouldn't want you at work while high on pain medicine!

By shell4life — On Jun 13, 2012

I've been having lots of gall bladder problems, and my doctor has recommended removing it. I'm scared about the surgery, but I'm going to go ahead with it anyway.

Does anyone know how long I will probably have to take off work in order to recover fully? I don't mind taking a break from work, but I only have a few sick days that I can get paid for, and I can't afford to take off for very long.

I work at a computer desk all day, so I don't have to do anything strenuous. I'm hoping this means I can get back to work fairly quickly.

By Oceana — On Jun 12, 2012

My friend who had gall bladder surgery must have been sensitive to the drugs, because his blood pressure and pulse rate dropped dangerously low. He had already become conscious again and had been talking to his wife when he suddenly fainted.

The heart monitor started beeping like crazy, and nurses were running around yelling things to each other. They had to inject him with something to bring him back to consciousness and raise his heart rate. They were actually afraid that they were losing him, and this made his wife faint, too!

After that ordeal was over, he didn't have any other problems. He recovered from surgery just fine, and before very long, he was back at work.

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