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Shoulder Pain After Laparoscopic Surgery

Shoulder Pain After Laparoscopic Surgery

A common complication of laparoscopic surgery may be shoulder pain. The pain is transient and lasts for two or three days, and then disappears on its own.
Saptakee Sengupta
Last Updated: Jan 29, 2018
Laparoscopy is a highly sophisticated technique and it involves use of either a telescopic rod lens, which is further connected to a video camera, or a digital laparoscope. Shoulder pain that erupts after laparoscopic surgery is observed due to rise in carbon dioxide in the abdomen which further exerts pressure on the phrenic nerve.
Link Between Laparoscopic Surgery and Shoulder Pain
Understanding the Surgical Method

The reason behind occurrence of shoulder pain will be clear when you understand the surgical process. The following steps are performed before making the incision.:
  • The operative field is illuminated with the help of a fiber optic cable system which is further connected to a cold light source, like xenon or halogen.
  • The laparoscope is then inserted through the incision (0.5-1.5 cm).
  • The abdomen is inflated with carbon dioxide gas in order to increase the surface area. This creates a dome like elevated structure for a better view of the organs. The area of abdominal wall is also increased by insufflation with carbon dioxide gas.
Post laparoscopy shoulder pain is associated with insertion of carbon dioxide gas during gallbladder surgery or gastric bypass surgery.
Occurrence of Pain

The diaphragm of the shoulder is connected to the abdomen and other organs of the body via the phrenic nerve. The phrenic nerve arises from the cervical spine roots on the neck, at the 3rd, 4th and 5th position. Carbon dioxide exerts tremendous pressure on the phrenic nerve due to which a sharp pain is felt in the shoulder and its surrounding region.
The reason behind shoulder pain after laparoscopic gastric bypass procedure is the same. Such type of pain is known as gas pain, which is experienced due to retention of carbon dioxide in the abdomen. The pain is felt initially underneath the abdomen and then it moves up to the shoulder. The pain although is transient in most cases, can appear after several months of the surgery.
The other reason behind shoulder pain following a laparoscopic surgery is due to the lap-band technique. In this surgery a laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding is used for the purpose of losing weight. The band is attached to an inflatable internal balloon placed just below the esophagus for the purpose of reducing the quantity of food consumed. The person starts feeling full after consuming small meals. Although the technique is effective in reducing weight, shoulder pain is the initial side effect. It is because the new stomach capacity leads to minor stretching problems in the abdomen. Chest pain and shoulder pain arise due to abdominal queasiness after lap-band surgery.
Dealing with Shoulder Pain
Shoulder pain is usually a common side effect of laparoscopy surgery. The pain gradually disappears after 2 or 3 days. During that period, doctors advice consumption of warm drinks and lemon tea. The pain can be alleviated with ginger ale, peppermint tea and carrot juice. If the pain aggravates, doctors prescribe anti-gas pills or pain killers. Some common shoulder exercises also help to reduce the pain.
Now that you know the reasons behind shoulder pain post a laparoscopic surgery, you should not worry on this. It lingers just for a few days and then disappears gradually. Follow your doctor's advice to recover quickly.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.
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