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What Should I Expect After Gallbladder Surgery?

By Adam Hill
Updated May 16, 2024
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Gallbladder surgery can have a wide range of results, but in most cases, the patient can expect to live a fairly normal life after the surgery. The recovery period after gallbladder surgery has been reduced by the increased use of laparoscopic techniques, which are much less invasive than open surgery. A brief postoperative hospital stay is usually necessary, and people often return to work and other normal activities within a week to ten days after surgery.

The main effect of having the gallbladder removed is that the body can no longer store bile between meals. For some people, this translates to little or no necessary change in lifestyle or diet. For others, digestive symptoms may be a part of everyday life for some time, or even permanently thereafter. The extent to which a person may need to change his diet or lifestyle in the long term is very difficult to predict, but it may be best to avoid very greasy or spicy foods until you have some idea how they may affect you.

Immediately after surgery, the patient is limited to a clear liquid diet. After this, other liquids and then foods may eventually be re-implemented over the course of the next days and weeks. Pain may be present in the shoulder and/or abdomen, and this is normal. It comes as a result of the fact that the surgeon uses ambient air, or sometimes carbon dioxide, to inflate the abdomen to allow him to see the area clearly during surgery. This pain almost always dissipates within two days to one week.

Other temporary effects that can be experienced after gallbladder surgery include nausea, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. These are sometimes directly related to the surgery and the anesthesia, and will likely be very temporary. Many of the negative side effects of gallbladder surgery are lessened if it is performed laparoscopically, meaning through small incisions rather than one large incision. There are some indications that would require a laparoscopic procedure to be converted to a traditional open surgery. These include the presence of a severe inflammation in the bile duct, being in the later stages of pregnancy, and any acute lung disease that would rule out the inflation of the abdomen which would otherwise restrict breathing.

Some possibility exists for complications after surgery. The more common potential problems include an infection at the incision site, internal bleeding, and injury to the surrounding organs from surgical instruments. Overall, however, gallbladder surgery is considered to be a safe, routine procedure, whose benefits far outweigh the risks for the majority of patients. Most experience a great degree of improvement in quality of life and overall health after gallbladder surgery.

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Discussion Comments
By anon999524 — On Jan 23, 2018

I had my gall bladder removed Nov 2017 and was so looking forward to no indigestion. Was always taking antacids. Since having mine removed, the indigestion has increased three fold.

I wish I could get my gall bladder back!! Believe me, it is not a cure all. I was never this sick with my gall bladder. Removing it has seemed to affect my whole system. Going to see the doctor today and see if he has any suggestions.

By anon969688 — On Sep 12, 2014

I recently had my gallbladder removed in June of this year. I had some minor pain but when my friend took one look at me and insisted I go to a hospital. I guess I looked worse than I knew. In truth, I did not really feel bad. The pain was minimal and had only recently started and I had not had any other symptoms I knew of – no attacks. Had my friend not made me go to the hospital I wouldn't have even thought twice about it. I would have just lay down, taken two ibuprofen and gone to sleep. I only agreed to go because I was not thinking clearly, and was having trouble concentrating.

When I got to the hospital, after a blood test, and a cursory exam, the doctor came in and said I had to have emergency gallbladder surgery. I was too loopy even register what he meant. He said had I not come in to the hospital I would have died over the weekend. He the informed me that my gallbladder was full of gallstones the size of peas and small marbles, infected and so full of pus It would have burst within 24 hours.

When I asked him what could have caused this, he shrugged and asked if I had lost a lot of weight recently. By 2008 I had gotten up to 415 pounds, but at 6'5" I carried it well. I decided I was going to lose weight so I stopped eating "just because" – you know, just because it's breakfast time or because everyone else was. I decided to eat only if I was hungry. Having a low metabolism, its not very often I am hungry.

Other than restricting the quantity of food that I ate, I did not do anything special. I did not stick to any strict diet, nor did I exercise. I lost 100 pounds the first nine months, then slowly, over the next 18 months (with my weight going up and down like a yo-yo) I finally reached 255 pounds, and kept the weight off for four years. I lost a total of 160 pounds, so I'm sure you'll can imagine how mind boggling it was for me. Here I had done something healthy, and it almost killed me. I'm in my mid 30s so it was a shock to be told I needed major surgery (I thought I had until I was 60 years old before that kind of thing was supposed to happen). I wish it been as routine for me as it was for some people. It took over two months for me to recover because I had complications caused from the surgery. I got an infection. They had to cut my belly button open up a second time to remove fluid pockets from under the skin at the surgery sites.

As if that were not bad enough, I've read things I've read saying that I will gain weight again because without the gallbladder your body can't break down fat properly. I don't understand that. If you can't break down the fat in your system, shouldn't you just pass it and thus not metabolize It? I've struggled to lose that weight (not to mention keeping it off) and I don't want to become obese again.

As I said earlier, I didn't stick to any strict guidelines for my diet. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty much a carnivore. I eat pork poultry, red meat as well as practically every kind of cheese. I do tend to choose leaner less fatty meat, and I don't eat trans fats, or salt (unless it's already in the food I'm eating) candy, or pretty much any other junk food, but I also don't eat vegetables, other than onions, potatoes and corn. I do not eat green leafy vegetables at all. The thought alone makes me nauseated. Yet everything I read so far tells me I'm not supposed to eat my normal food anymore. Even worse, I'm being told I'm not supposed to have caffeine either? That will never work! I must have my caffeine.

As much as I don't want to get fat again, there's no dang way I'm trading in my steak and taters for mustard greens and asparagus. So please, if anyone knows for sure that weight gain is inevitable due to the inability to process the fat in foods, I'm curious to know if I were to take a fat blocker would that prevent the weight gain? Also, are there any other long term side effects to not having a gallbladder, like an increased risk for pancreatic cancer, stomach ulcers or worse.

Other than the post surgical complications, I never had any side effects – no diarrhea or constipation. Heck, I had a cheeseburger,fries and milkshake for dinner the day after surgery. I have no acid reflux, no indigestion (just occasional heartburn, but that's normal) so I feel blessed as far as that goes. Other than the taking longer then usual to heal, and the fact that I never knew I had a gallbladder problem until it almost killed me, were it not for the scars, I doubt people would even believe I had the surgery.

By anon965044 — On Aug 08, 2014

I got my gall bladder removed in July and feel much better, with no pain at all. I eat everything as before and have no problem.

It was scary when I read all those reviews and negative people out there, but believe me -- if you have an experienced surgeon, this is going to be very simple surgery.

I started my normal activity on day two except lifting any heavy weights.

By anon943077 — On Mar 31, 2014

I just had my GB removed this past Tuesday. I don't know how I would be feeling if I hadn't had the surgery done. Comparing the previous to post surgery, the post wins by a mile. My gallbladder was removed because of pancreatitis. Not much to contribute, but I will likely watch what I eat and in smaller portions. 54 year old male, here.

By anon359093 — On Dec 15, 2013

I tried so many methods to avoid gallbladder surgery, inclusive of ayurvediic and homeopathy but every thing failed. I advise people to make immediate decisions.

By anon351873 — On Oct 17, 2013

I'm one day post op and I have no appetite, but am making sure I am drinking plenty of fluids. The pain is starting to decrease as well, but I'm still sore around my belly button.

By Laderma — On Jul 22, 2013

I found lots of interesting information here. The post was professionally written and I feel like the author has extensive knowledge in this subject.

By anon341408 — On Jul 11, 2013

After a month of recovery, I lost my appetite. Is this normal -- that is, from the removal of gallbladder and stone surgery?

By anon339448 — On Jun 23, 2013

I had surgery several days ago, and I am having major upper reflux, although I never suffered with it ever before. I'm having pain in my right rib cage. Any comments on this?

By anon329894 — On Apr 12, 2013

I had ERCP and gallbladder removal 2.5 weeks ago. I really didn't have problems before, except once a year when gallstones moved. As was the case almost three weeks ago, when I went to the ER wanting to rule out heart problems, I ended up being admitted for emergency surgery. You can imagine I didn't get a lot of time to do research before, so it was something of a shock both mentally and physically. They wouldn't even let me go home to bring change, my phone charger or a tablet/e-reader, but I managed to borrow a phone from one of the social workers, so I could arrange for someone to take care of my cat.

I was allowed to eat a small meal on Sunday night (before midnight), then was not allowed anything to eat or drink. I was sent to ERCP surgery at 2:30 p.m. the next day, and came back to the ward around 4 p.m. I was up before they knew it, because I had to go to the toilet.

I was then again put on no food or drink, and had no idea when my gallbladder removal surgery was going to be. I was told I might have to wait until 8:30 p.m. or the next day. Long time with no food or drink! Luckily, they came and sent me down to surgery around 8 a.m. the next morning, and I was the second patient going in. My surgeon was great, and I had to explain to them that all the sores I had on my stomach was from my cat kneading on me.

My surgery was done laparoscopically. About 5-10 percent start out that way and have to be changed to open surgery, but in my case that was not necessary. I woke up in recovery around noon, so about two and a half hours after going into surgery. I had four incisions, and one of them on the belly button was bleeding a bit, but that is also the largest incision they make. It's awkwardly placed, but it also means if there is scarring, it won't be very visible. For the other three, they are almost completely healed by now.

Due to nausea, I spent about two and a half hours in recovery, and got all the medication they would give me, both anti-nausea and pain meds (Dilaudid). Once I got up to the ward, I got no more medication. I was up on my feet a couple of hours later, but because I was tired, I went to sleep.

After waking up, the ward would only let me get liquids, however, the surgeons had told me I could start eating almost immediately, so I did argue a bit with the nurses. In the recovery area, I got sorbet, which I was not allowed on the ward. At about 8 p.m., my doctor came by and told me I could go home. When she heard I hadn't eaten solids yet, she asked me to eat something before she sent me home. I had half a ham sandwich, some melons and pasta, and that satisfied her. I got home that night, and it was *so* good. I did have some problems moving around in bed, and of course my cat wanted to climb on top of me. I let her do that, since they had permitted that at the hospital. It was a bigger shock to the system to have 12 pounds of cat on four legs jump up on my stomach than moving around did!

In any case, I did not have diarrhea much. I would characterize the two or three episodes as loose stool, and I could easily hold it, with no need to run to the toilet. I suffered more from constipation and started using stool softeners.

I used some pain meds going to bed at night, but I didn't really need them. In recovery, I've been battling fatigue, and this is the first day I haven't had my midday nap, and I don't feel I need one yet. The only problem I have is that I have gotten some light acid reflux, and that is a bit worrisome, so I will talk to my PCP about this. I have had my post-surgery appointment with the surgeon, and he was pleased with my progress.

For those who wonder, I am 44 year obese female with diabetes, so age, weight and health doesn't seem to matter much in recovery. My diet has not changed much since before surgery, since I was eating a healthy enough diet before (despite my weight, which is slowly going down and has been for a long time). I gained some weight after the surgery, but not a lot (5-10 pounds, but to me that's practically nothing; it might be daily variance).

So in conclusion: no pain, no serious complications other than acid reflux (which should go away in time anyway), no particular scarring, and no change in diet. While there are a lot of horror stories out there, and anyone having to go through this surgery should be aware of what to expect, most of us get through it without many problems. Good luck to all!

By anon325612 — On Mar 17, 2013

Normally, after having gallstones, you lose weight rather than gaining weight.

By anon324745 — On Mar 12, 2013

I am a 35 year old female and I am almost at the 4 week mark after having my GB removed and I feel amazing. I have lost weight and I eat just as I would have before surgery, with just a couple of things that I can't eat, like broccoli and carrots and alfalfa, but other than those three things I have had no problems.

I found that waiting two weeks to try all the good stuff really helped not to forget eating smaller portions until you know how it will affect you is a good idea. Also, I am no expert on the subject but here are some of the things I ate in the first two weeks: regular chicken broth (not the low fat kind); )cucumbers with cottage cheese; crackers with cheese; chicken boiled in chicken broth with potatoes; pork chops and rice. On day six, I ate a turkey dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy a roll (if you like stuffing try it).

Really, all you can do is eat through trial and error. You will be surprised at what you can eat if you stop listening to all the things people say on the internet and just wing it. Everyone is different, so there really isn't a guideline that everyone follows. If your body says it's hungry, then eat.

By anon323013 — On Mar 02, 2013

I had my gallbladder removed last Thursday and have lost seven pounds and I'm still eating everything I did before my surgery. Nothing upsets my stomach and I don't have diarrhea.

By anon298632 — On Oct 21, 2012

I am getting my gallbladder out tomorrow morning and met with my surgeon this past Friday. I've been doing my research and it seems that most people lose weight after the surgery because of the surgery itself, but also because of the absence of the gallbladder and how you cannot eat whatever you want (I'm to expect diarrhea for a couple of months. I'm 15 so it won't be as bad as someone who is 40, but worse than someone who is 10).

You have to practically start from scratch when you have this surgery when it comes to your diet. If you're curious, there are a lot of forums and threads about the surgery; some people did say that they gained weight, I'm not sure how much. Others said they lost a little to a lot of weight. I would look it up if you're curious. Hope I helped!

By anon266466 — On May 06, 2012

Yes, my cousin gained a lot, but he eats meat. He eats anything and has not kept to any diet. In two months he gained 15kg. I am so scared of this as I need do this surgery also. But I am too slim now anyway.

By anon236746 — On Dec 25, 2011

I had mine out 10 days ago, felt great with no complications. Now I have started oozing some blood from my navel. I don't know why. I did have my staples out three days ago. I am wondering is this why?

By anon188562 — On Jun 21, 2011

People only gain weight after gallbladder surgery as they can then eat all the foods that they couldn't eat before. The bile is still present in the intenstine to break down the fats. You only gain weight by eating high calorie foods. Stick to a healthy diet and you'll be fine.

By anon105887 — On Aug 23, 2010

What to do if I have internal bleeding for more than 10 days after a gallbladder surgery? Is this normal?

By EarlyForest — On Jul 31, 2010

I was wondering about scar tissue after gallbladder surgery.

Is it extensive in any case, or does it depend on whether the surgery is laparoscopic or not?

By Charlie89 — On Jul 31, 2010

@closerfan12 -- From what I understand, it's more likely to lose weight after gallbladder surgery, since you tend to feel full with less.

However, there are instances of people who gain weight after gallbladder surgery.

Some people theorize that this happens because people are looser with their diet after gallbladder surgery.

Others say that the removal of the gallbladder causes the body to metabolize food differently, in some cases leading to weight gain.

In many cases the doctor will just advise people to watch their diet, or have their thyroid checked.

Other than that, there's no real "cure" for the weight gain -- just one of the aspects of life after gallbladder surgery for some people.

By closerfan12 — On Jul 31, 2010

I've heard that some people gain a ton of weight after gallbladder surgery.

Does anybody know if this is true, do you gain weight after gallbladder surgery?

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