Senior Veteran (female)
Join Date: May 2004
Re: Having 'outpatient' gallbladder surgery
Yup.... totally normal. Laparoscopic gallbladder surgery is an outpatient procedure. I too was skeptical, especially after I was given the option of whether to stay in the hospital or go home the same day after my ankle surgery, and I decided to go home and actually had to go back to the hospital because I was in so much pain. I didn't want to make the same mistake again, so even though the kept telling me I'd be going home, I was convinced that I would find some way to stay. But it turned out there was no need.
Whether or not they require pre-op bloodwork depends on the surgeon and the hospital. My surgeon required it, but they drew it through the IV on the day of the surgery. If they do order it, it's just a CBC, to make sure that you aren't anemic or having an infection or clotting problems.
My surgery was scheduled for 1:00. I got to the hospital at 11:00 and checked in. Then they take your blood pressure and pulse and ask you all kinds of questions, then have you change into the hospital gown. Then they come in and start an IV, and the anesthesiologist and surgeon will come by to make sure you don't have any questions or concerns. I was feeling nauseated, so I told the anesthesiologist and she gave me some meds for that. I was also worried about feeling sick when I woke up, so she promised to give me some meds throughout the surgery and before I went into recovery.
They do have to insert a breathing tube, but they do that after you go to sleep and take it out before you wake up. That's because they inflate your abdomen with gas, which makes it hard for you to breathe on your own. But the anesthesiologist's only job is to take care of your breathing and heart rate and medications, so you will be well taken care of.
The surgery took 45 minutes. I woke up in the recovery room around 3:00. I was in pain, so I got some drugs through the IV. The nurse checked my incisions, and then my mom came in. Here is a key thing: They gave me some pain PILLS at that point, with some juice and graham crackers. Before the pills kicked in, the pain came back and I got another shot through the IV. But by the time that shot wore off, the pills had kicked in. Be sure that you get pills and that the pain is under control from the pills before you leave. And then take the pills on schedule, before the pain gets bad. If you let the pain get bad, it will be harder to get it under control with the pills.
So then I went home and I was on my couch by 5:00 (just 4 hours after surgery). The first day I didn't feel too bad, because I still had all the anesthesia drugs in my system. I think the third day was the worst in terms of pain. I actually felt okay the second day, and I stayed awake all day and actually went over to somebody's house and visited with them for a few hours. The third day was the worst, because I overdid it the second day. So I just laid around and took my pills, which made me sleep a lot. The pain wasn't really sharp, just the feeling that I had been run over by a semi truck or stabbed multiple times in the abdomen (which really wasn't too far from the truth!). I had some pain from the incisions, but I found that ice helped that (a bag of frozen peas works well). But even with the surgical pain, I could tell that the pain I had been feeling from my gallbladder was gone.
I had my surgery on a Thursday, and I went to one class on Monday. By the next Thursday, I was able to teach and go to some classes, but I was still in some pain and tired. By two weeks I felt pretty good, and by a month I was pretty much back to normal.
You will want to try to get up and walk a bit each day (as much as you feel like) because it will help speed up your recovery. The first day I went for one very short walk (down to the mailbox and back). The second day I walked twice. After that, I started doing some longer walks (around the block) two or three times a day. Just whatever feels okay. You might not be able to walk far at first. I went to the store with my mom the second day, but I used the little electric cart because I was tired and walking was slow because of the pain.
And stay away from fatty foods. Your digestive system will need to adjust to fats, since the gallbladder is used in digesting fats, so you will want to introduce them slowly to avoid major diarrhea. The first week I didn't really eat anything with much fat (I mostly ate soup, salad, toast, graham crackers, etc.). I slowly added it in.
Also, you'll want to have some nice comfy pants to wear, and some that look decent. I couldn't wear pants for nearly a month, because although I wasn't really in much pain, the incisions were still tender, and the one at the bellybutton hurt when I wore jeans. I also couldn't wear a bra for a month or so, because the band went over the midline incision. I ended up wearing snug camisoles (without a built-in bra) to keep things in place.
I think my biggest problem in the whole recovery was just that I was bored and crabby. There wasn't anything on TV, and I was tired but not sleepy, and I wanted to get up and do something but I couldn't, and I wanted something to occupy myself but I didn't feel like doing anything. Word puzzles, a silly novel, or other stuff you can do while laying on your back are a must. I tried to do a jigsaw puzzle one day, but sitting up and leaning over hurt. So prepare some activities that you can do in any position. But nothing too funny, because it hurts to laugh.
So no worries. Unless you have some reaction to the anesthesia (very rare) or they end up doing the open surgery (also very rare) you will be going home the same day, and you will be fine. You will be much more comfortable at home, anyway. You will be up and around in a week, feeling pretty good in two weeks, and pretty much back to normal in a month. I have had other surgery, and I would rather have my gallbladder out 20 times than have my ankle surgery again. It's scary, but it really isn't a big deal (once it's over with, and it's somebody else that's having it!). Just try to relax. :-) Oh, and if you're into that sort of thing, your doctor will probably take pictures for you and print off a copy, if you want a souvenier.