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Pain After Gallbladder Surgery

Although overall risk involved in a gallbladder surgery is very low, certain side effects of the surgery may cause pain and discomfort after the surgery. Stomach pain or back pain after the surgery is quite common. Read on, to know more about the causes of constant pain that is experienced after removal of gallbladder.
Leena Palande
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
The sac like organ which lies in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, beneath the backside of the liver, is known as gallbladder. It stores bile produced by the liver in between the meals. Gallbladder releases bile in a concentrated form. Bile is poured into the intestine through bile ducts; when you eat. Bile helps break down fats and aids digestion.
Among different gallbladder diseases, cancer, polyps, cholecystitis (inflammation of gallbladder) and gallstones are very common. Most of the time, a surgery to remove gallbladder (cholecystectomy) is necessary as a part of the treatment for gallstones. The patient may experience certain side effects of the surgery.
Complications following the surgery include pain in the shoulder, chest and belly, injury, inflammation, bleeding, infection, loss of appetite, nausea and sometimes, diarrhea. However, it is observed that in spite of the pain after gallbladder surgery, patients usually regain their normal condition within 2-3 weeks. Studies show that in most people, removal of gallbladder does not affect the process of digestion.
Causes of Pain after Surgical Removal of Gallbladder
The digestive system may become slightly weaker after the gallbladder surgery, leading to loss of appetite or nausea (it can be an effect of anesthesia). Less intake of food may lead to fatigue, resulting in nervousness. The patient needs to follow a 'post gallbladder removal diet' designed by the doctor or the dietitian. It helps improve his/her overall health and makes his/her digestive system strong and efficient. The organs of the digestive system accept the change gradually and then, they work smoothly.
Awkward Body Position
Excessive fatigue after the surgery may lead to muscle fatigue or cramps. Patients, being afraid of the post-operative pain, tend to bend in the abdomen while sitting and while walking. They tend to bend their shoulders too; because of the chest and back pain that they constantly experience. They feel afraid of straightening the body. The awkward position of the body and pressure due to abdominal pain may eventually lead to shoulder pain after the surgery.
Bile Leakage
When the gallbladder is removed, the bile duct is clipped to prevent bile leaks and other complications. If this clip is dislocated even slightly, bile may leak in the abdominal area, leading to abdominal and lower back pain after the surgery. Don't panic, this is a relatively rare complication.
Cut in the Abdomen
Abdominal pain after gallbladder surgery is one of the main side effects of the surgery. As gallbladder is located in the abdomen and as it is connected to the liver and other parts of the digestive system, surgery may cause pain in the abdomen. A large incision is required, if the doctor decides to perform an 'open surgery'. Laparoscopic surgery may require several small incisions in the abdomen. But it promotes fast and less painful recovery.
Traces of Carbon Dioxide
During the surgery, air or carbon dioxide is pumped into the abdominal cavity. It is removed afterwards. But the left over traces of carbon dioxide can cause abdominal pain or back pain or right side pain after the surgery. The left over carbon dioxide causes bloating and uneasiness leading to stomach pain after the surgery.
Side Effects of the Surgery
Removal of the gallbladder mainly affects the function of the digestive system (for a few days only). Side effects of the surgery include muscle pain due to the effect of anesthesia, decreased bile secretion, diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, abdominal cramps, inflammation or drainage at the surgical wound, etc. Almost all side effects lead to abdominal pain.
Spasms of the Sphincter
The colicky pain in the abdominal region, due to spasms of the gallbladder sphincter (a round muscle that lies at the opening of the bile duct into the small intestine) is quite common. Sphincterotomy can help ease the pain, but sometimes, pain is experienced even after sphincterotomy.
Problem Digesting Fats
After the surgery, fats may not be digested properly. Patients should follow a low-fat diet for a few days, or else there can be digestive system disorders like heartburn, leading to chest pain after gallbladder surgery.
Shifting of Organs
When the gallbladder is removed, nearby organs get shifted a little bit inside the abdominal cavity. This can lead to back/abdominal pain after the surgery.
Due to bacterial infection after the surgery, the patient may experience pain in the abdomen or chest or even pain in the back.
Possible Serious Complications
Although chances of complications during the surgery are very low, you cannot ignore the possibility of some complex conditions. For example, internal bleeding, infected/oozing wound, injury to small intestine, bile duct, cystic duct, blood vessels, liver, etc., gallstones mistakenly pushed into the common bile duct or left in the abdominal cavity, leakage of bile into the abdominal cavity, etc. All these can cause abdominal pain.
Since gallbladder regulates the flow of bile in your body, the small intestine may receive too much or too little bile at one time, after the removal of gallbladder. If you are suffering from 'too little bile', then you may take 'purified bile salts' supplements. If too much of bile is poured into the intestine, then you may have to run to the bathroom immediately after eating.
Doctors usually prescribe pain killers to relieve the pain after the surgery. For fast and less painful recovery, patients need to follow the instructions of the doctor, sincerely. Proper diet and sufficient rest promote fast recovery. Patients can return to normal activities within a week's time, if it is a laparoscopic surgery and if it does not give rise to any complications. The overall health and age of the patient also determine the recovery time.
For pain that is not relieved by medications, bleeding, persistent fever, drainage from the incision, jaundice like symptoms, increasing abdominal swelling, nausea, vomiting or difficulty eating/drinking, one should immediately contact the surgeon. This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.