Otherwise known as a peptic ulcer, stomach ulcer is a condition that is characterized by open sores on the inner lining of the stomach, duodenum, and the lower esophagus. Earlier, it was thought that this condition was caused by factors, like stress and consumption of spicy food. Now, it has been found that in most cases, helicobacter pylori infection is the real cause for peptic ulcers. Even use of pain killers and certain types of prescription medication, and stress, are considered as contributory factors for such ulcers.
Irrespective of the cause, stomach ulcers cause an imbalance in the level of acids produced by the stomach, and the amount of mucus that forms the protective lining of the inner wall. This results in erosion of this lining, thereby causing ulcers. The treatment for peptic ulcers may vary with the cause and the severity of the condition. While medication is sufficient for treating some of the patients, others may require an endoscopy or endotherapy. If all these methods fail to relieve the condition, then surgery may be required. In some cases, stomach ulcer surgery is done as an emergency measure, to avoid complications.
Surgery for Stomach Ulcers
As mentioned above, medication is sufficient for treating stomach ulcers. Such medicines include antibiotics (in case of helicobacter pylori infection), along with antacids and acid suppressants. If there is no bacterial infection, then, a combination of acid suppressants and antacids, is used for treating stomach ulcers. In case of complications, like bleeding ulcers, the patient may be subjected to endoscopy and/or endotherapy.
However, some of the bleeding ulcers may not respond to any of these treatment methods. It may also happen that these ulcers burn through the entire wall of the organ and cause perforations. It may also affect the nearby organs, like the pancreas. Such perforation is a medical emergency that requires surgery, to rectify the condition. Even those ulcers that do not respond to medication and other methods of treatment, may require surgical intervention. Stomach ulcer surgery can be classified into three types - vagotomy, antrectomy, and pyloroplasty. In some cases, vagotomy is done along with any of the other two.
So, surgical treatment for stomach ulcers can be of different types - vagotomy, antrectomy, and pyloroplasty. In case of perforated peptic ulcers, surgery is often done, as an emergency measure. Apart from suturing the perforation and peritoneal lavage; stomach ulcer surgery may sometimes involve remedial measures, like vagotomy, pyloroplasty, and antrectomy. In vagotomy, some parts of the vagus nerve are severed, so that the acid secretion in the stomach is reduced. Antrectomy is the surgical procedure that removes the lower part of the stomach, to cut down the production of digestive juices. Pyloroplasty involves enlargement of the pylorus, which is the passage between the stomach and the small intestine. This is done to facilitate free flow of the stomach contents to the small intestine. As far as recovery from stomach ulcer surgery is concerned, various factors are involved. They include the type of the surgery (open of laparoscopic), the patient's health condition, and possible complications.
Vagotomy: In case of vagotomy, the patient may be required to stay in the hospital for around seven days (3 to 4 days in a laparoscopic procedure). During the first three to four days after the surgery, the stomach contents are suctioned out; using tubes that are inserted into the stomach, through the nose. After that, the patient has to stick to a clear liquid diet for a few days or till the digestive system functions normally. The patient may be administered with pain killers, antibiotics, etc. Once the patient starts a normal diet, he must avoid spicy and acidic foods. He must also avoid strenuous activities that may affect healing. The total time for recovery from stomach ulcer surgery may be around four to six weeks. The recovery time may be reduced significantly, in case of laparoscopy.
Antrectomy: In antrectomy, the hospital stay will be around seven to ten days (around five days in laparoscopic surgery). The patient will be administered with pain killers and antibiotics. In this case too, stomach contents will be suctioned out through tubes inserted through the nose. Once the gastrointestinal functions start, the patient will be given a clear liquid diet, followed by soft foods. As the patient starts solid food, he must keep a watch on his diet, by avoiding foods that are difficult to digest. It will take around eight weeks or more, for the patient to recover completely. During this time, he must undergo regular endoscopic check-ups.
Pyloroplasty: In case of pyloroplasty, four to six weeks will be required for complete recovery. Hospital stay can be between six to eight days. The patient will be given intravenous liquids as well as pain medication, for the next two days, after which, he will be provided with a clear liquid diet. After a few days, solid food may be started. In most cases, patients recover completely within a few weeks.
This is only a general view about recovery from stomach ulcer surgery. Aftercare, recovery time, etc., may vary from one person to another; on the basis of factors, like the age and health condition of the patient, post-operative complications, etc. So, it is always better to follow your doctor's instructions strictly, so as to recover quickly and safely.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.