The surgical removal of the gallbladder, also called a cholecystectomy, can be done in two different ways. Depending on the patient’s internal anatomy or other factors, an open cholecystectomy is necessary in about 5 percent of cases. Meanwhile a less invasive laparoscopic procedure is the usual method. The type of surgery performed will affect the recovery time and lifting recommendations.
An open cholecystectomy is a major surgical procedure that involves a 5- to 7-inch long incision from just below the ribcage area to just below the waist on the right side. The surgeon physically opens up the body cavity to retrieve the gallbladder by cutting it away from the blood vessels and the bile duct, according to Medline Plus.
This surgery will often result in an extended hospital stay, sometimes up to a week. During this recovery time the patient will work on breathing exercises to keep the lungs working properly and will begin walking, but will not be encouraged to do any lifting.
According to Wishard Health, discharged open cholecystectomy patients should limit strenuous activities including any lifting greater than 10 pounds, for at least four weeks. The internal work done during this surgery is fairly extensive and it should be given proper time to heal so that there is minimum risk of internal injury.
The laparoscopic version of gallbladder surgery is far more common and involves four very small incisions. One incision just below the belly button is where the “scope” is inserted that allows the surgeon to see on a monitor by using a tiny camera. Other instruments that complete the cutting and removal of the gallbladder are inserted into three other small incisions in the abdominal area. It is possible that some patients will be able to go home the day of surgery, but may stay in the hospital for recovery for a day or two. Heavy lifting following laparoscopic gallbladder surgery is considered anything more than 20 pounds, according to Colorado Springs Surgical Associates. Doctors do not recommend this kind of lifting for four to six weeks after surgery. While the patient typically feels back to normal within a few days and the surgical incisions do not look serious, it is important to remember the vast amount of work done internally. Also, lifting more than 20 pounds may cause a hernia at the umbilical incision. This is the main concern and reason for the extended lifting restriction.
Those patients who have small children who need to be lifted and carried often may be tempted to overlook the lifting restrictions. Some parents who do not have other help around during the day may need to lift a child for various reasons during the day. If you foresee this being a problem you should speak to your doctor about it. The doctor knows your specific case the best and can tell you if you are putting yourself at any serious risk.