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What Are the Most Common Side Effects from Gallbladder Surgery?

By Clara Kedrek
Updated May 17, 2024
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Although many procedures performed on the gallbladder are accomplished without causing significant problems, there are a number of possible side effects from gallbladder surgery. Patients commonly feel abdominal pain and bloating immediately after the surgery. If they lost a large amount of blood during the operation, they might feel weak and dizzy. Some patients might experience a skin infection at the site of the surgery. Rarely, accidental injury to other internal structures such as the wall of the intestines can cause more severe side effects.

After a gallbladder surgery is finished, many patients have some soreness and pain at the site of the surgery. Typically the pain is worst below the rib cage but above the belly button on the right side of the abdomen. Although the pain can be superficial and associated with the incision made through the skin, the pain could also be cramping or aching in nature. Many people feel a sense of bloating or abdominal fullness after the surgery.

With some gallbladder surgeries, patients might lose a significant volume of blood. This is not a typical side effect from gallbladder surgery, but physicians carefully monitor for the development of low red blood cell counts. Patients with blood loss might experience symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, dizziness, and irregular heart beats. This condition can be easily diagnosed with routine blood tests, and can be treated with blood transfusions and iron supplementation.

Occasionally another one of the side effects from gallbladder surgery is an infection of the skin surrounding the incision site. Symptoms of this condition can include pain, fever, and a thick yellow discharge from the incision site. Although this side effect can often be prevented, if it does develop it is typically treated with antibiotic pills.

Some of the most feared side effects from gallbladder surgery are caused by accidental injury to structures within the abdominal cavity made during the course of the surgery. One such surgical error is accidentally damaging the biliary tract, which is a system of tubes that allows bile to flow from the gallbladder and liver into the duodenum, a part of the small intestine. Patients might report symptoms such as generalized abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Certain injuries to the biliary system could result in a backup of bile, a process that could eventually cause jaundice, a condition associated with the yellowing of the skin. Often these patients will require additional operations to fix the damaged structures.

Injury to the walls of the intestine is another one of the accidental side effects from gallbladder surgery. The symptoms of this type of injury can vary according to severity. Some patients might have mild abdominal pain and no other symptoms. Others could develop severe pain, abdominal distension, and fever due to the leaking of material from the gastrointestinal tract into the abdominal cavity. These patients might require an emergency surgery to fix the damaged bowel.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1000646 — On Nov 07, 2018

I had open gall bladder surgery three months ago. Explain why there is numbness. Thank you.

By Heavanet — On Feb 07, 2014

You are right about reporting pain or discomfort after gallbladder surgery Rundocuri. As the article points out, sometimes things go wrong and other problems occur after surgery. Pain may be a symptom of a serious problem.

By Rundocuri — On Feb 06, 2014

It is also important to follow your doctor's orders closely after gallbladder surgery, and to report any pain or symptoms you have that do not seem right.

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