The gall bladder is a tiny sac that holds bile secreted from the liver. It releases bile into the small intestines after a meal to metabolize the fat. It’s quite possible to live an unaltered life without your gall bladder, as the liver continues to make and secrete bile—it just goes directly into the small intestines. According to gallbladderattack.com, some half million people have their gallbladders removed each year. The recovery time depends not only on the type of surgery you have, but also on your diet and how amenable you are to changing your eating habits.
Nearly everyone who has gall bladder surgery will have it done laparoscopically. For this surgery, the surgeon will make three or four small slits in the abdominal area into which various instruments will be inserted, and from which the gall bladder will be removed. In a small percentage of cases—a very diseased gall bladder or liver problems, for instance—an open surgery is performed. During that surgery, the surgeon cuts a 5- to 7-inch opening in the belly and removes the gall bladder.
The National Institutes of Health reports that recovery from an open surgery can take 6 to 8 weeks, as the surgeon cuts through muscles. You’ll likely spend at least two days in the hospital, where nurses will get you up and walking as soon as they think you’re able to do that. You’ll go home and have to take it easy, slowly building up your stamina over the next several weeks. Heavy lifting is prohibited for two months.
The recovery from laparoscopic gall bladder removal is much quicker. Most patients are sent home the same day, with a prescription for pain relievers. After a day or two of rest, many people report feeling much better and some return to work. Doctors recommend taking as much as a week off from work, if needed, but there are usually no restrictions after this type of gall bladder removal. If you are taking narcotic painkillers, which may be necessary for 2 or 3 days, you should not drive.
Since bile aids in the digestion of fats, your digestive tract may not tolerate fatty foods as well as it had in the past, and you may experience diarrhea after a high fat meal since the fat will not be well digested and will pass quickly through your intestines. An article at Steady Health suggests that 20 percent of gall bladder removal patients suffer with diarrhea several weeks after surgery. Doctors recommend maintaining a fairly low fat diet, adding fat slowly to see how your body handles it. Some patients have no trouble at all, others adjust more slowly, and some have reported never being able to eat certain foods. This is a case where you’ll have to observe your own body’s reaction to fats in the diet.
There can be complications of gall bladder surgery. If you have a fever of more than 101 degrees, experience increasing nausea or pain, or can see swelling or oozing from your incisions, call your doctor.