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Gallbladder Surgery - Recovery time, What to eat, Cost, Risks, Complications

Updated on December 30, 2013

What is Gallbladder Surgery?

Gallbladder surgery or the removal of the gallbladder is medically called cholecystectomy. This procedure is indicated to patients who have gallstones. Cholecystectomy is a delicate procedure that involves induction of general anesthesia in order to attain unconsciousness, amnesia and loss of reflexes. The gallbladder is located under the surface of the liver, right upper quadrant of our abdomen. The gallbladder is a very important small organ of our body that is also responsible for our digestion. It stores up our bile, important component of our body that emulsifies the fats that we eat, which was produced by our liver.

The surgical removal of the gallbladder is called open cholecystectomy that involves incision of the abdomen followed by the cutting and removal of the gallbladder. A new surgical method for the removal of gallbladder is called the laparoscopic cholecystectomy. There is usage of a laparoscope, an instrument that visualizes the insides of the body, which serves as a guide as well as the removal of the gallbladder. Small incisions are made instead of a large one from the invasive open surgery.

This procedure is indicated to patients who have gallbladder problems. It is either gallstone formations or the gallbladder is not normally functioning that the surgery is prompted. You are advised to undergo such procedure if a final diagnosis was made and there is a 100% confirmation of a gallbladder problem. The following symptoms would indicate the need for further testing: epigastric pain, nausea and vomiting, indigestion and infection. Diagnosis is truly important in the process; identification of gallstones is commonly done through an ultrasound.

Work-up is done before the surgery and that includes blood tests (CBC, serum electrolytes and kidney tests), chest x-ray or electrocardiogram to some patients, and visualization tests of the gallbladder. A complete medical history is taken from the patient in order to have a smooth turnout. Medications taken by the patient should be asked and identified. Prior to the surgery, taking of aspirin, ibuprofen, vitamin E, warfarin, and any drugs for blood clotting should be stopped.

What to eat after gallbladder surgery?

Prior to the procedure, the doctor would prescribe a strict diet to the patient. This includes the complete emptying of the colon and cleansing of the digestive tract. Prior to the surgery, a clear liquid diet is recommended. No food per orem (mouth) once you’re on the day of the surgery. Once the patient is fully awake after the procedure, fluids are given gradually. Gradually, as the patient’s condition is getting better and food tolerance is attained, soft to solid foods are provided. Low fat diet is ordered.

The foods to be avoided after gallbladder surgery are those rich in fat content: fried foods; high fat meats; dairy products with fat such as cheese, cream, whole milk and sour cream; pizza; butter; creamy soups; meat gravy; chocolate; and chicken skin. Avoid the foods that can promote discomfort after the surgery and it includes high-fiber and gas-producing foods. Spicy foods should be avoided for they can produce gastrointestinal disturbances.

Avoid gallstone-forming foods such as eggs, pork, gluten, onion, milk, coffee, grapefruit, oranges, beans and nuts, alcohol, saturated fats, hydrogenated oils.


The accumulated average cost for a cholecystectomy is $11, 400 in the Unites States of America. The cost would range from $6,000 to $20,000 depending on the case and institution. Additional expenses are to be considered especially with the hospital stay, medications, anesthesia and the professional doctor’s fee.

Recovery Time

A good benefit from the laparoscopic cholecystectomy is a short recovery time. Usually, patients who have undergone the procedure shall stay in the hospital for two to six days for close monitoring. A longer recovery time is expected after an open cholecystectomy. A recovery time of a week to 10 days is to be expected from patients who undergone a laparoscopic surgery. They may proceed with their daily living activities. Unlike those who underwent an open cholecystectomy, a period of four to six weeks is the expected recovery time for patients.


Risks for this procedure would include bleeding, infection, injury of the proximal organs surrounding the gallbladder (bile duct, small intestine), and pancreatitis. Risks are definitely present in all procedures, whatever it may be. These risks are presented to the patient for it is their legal right to be fully informed.

Other risks will involve the inducted anesthesia and the acute reaction from it. Drug reactions are common risks, along with breathing problems. Since this procedure involves the induction of general anesthesia, postoperative nausea and vomiting is to be expected. Close monitoring of the vital signs should be done postoperatively.


If one underwent the laparoscopic cholecystectomy, the risk for complications is lesser compared to open cholecystectomy. But the risk for infection is always present, whatever procedure it may be.

A potential problem may arise from the accidental injury of the common bile duct. When this happens, bile leakage may result that can cause infection. The possible presenting symptoms shall be experienced by the patient: general malaise, nausea and vomiting, anorexia, abdominal pain, fever and jaundice (yellow discoloration of the skin). Prompt treatment is done once this is experienced by the client. Corrective surgery is indicated to patients who develop these complications.

After a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, a common complication is injury of major blood vessels and part of the intestines. Fortunately, this complication is found rare. Other common complications are bleeding and infection.

Proper instructions to the patient should be done in order to avoid further damage. Teach the client to report for any signs of fever (101 °F or 39 °C), bleeding, and abdominal swelling, intractable pain, persistent nausea or vomiting, chills, shortness of breath, purulent drainage from incision, worsening redness of the incision site, and inability to eat or drink. Proper care for the surgical site is very important to avoid such result. A responsible health care provider would properly check and monitor the patient’s condition. Once the patient is discharged from the hospital, caregivers are given a thorough instruction in attaining the optimum health of the patient.


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    • profile image

      Brandy M. 

      2 months ago

      I had a stomach bacteria and Gallstones at the same time for 2 months. I suffered 2 months until they actually found the gallstone problem. I was dehydrated , couldn’t eat , loss of appetite, lost 30pounds in one month & I couldn’t eat anything. I mistaked the pain for heart attacks. Once I had my gallbladder removed 2 weeks ago I’ve been able to eat food again. I’m still enduring pain and the pulling in my stomach ... I walk very slow and can’t sleep at night because I don’t know how else to lay down comfortably without hurting myself. I layer pillows against my bed rest and sit up as I “sleep” ...sometimes I feel short of breath but I want to know how long this is going to take until I start feeling the happy me again. The holidays are coming and I feel like skipping them this year because I don’t want anyone to hug me by accident and hurt me. Doc said I’m having a slower recovery because of the stomach bacteria I may still have and because of how long I went being I’ll before surgery :(

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      i had surgery 10 days ago and it's not fun. pain is fare at times intens,nausea just started. once the stiches came off. and my belly itches. theres pulling every time i move. and bowl movements suck rite through me. im glad it's out but recovery is slow. im greatfull for all the help i am truly blessed. take care of your body people its so not worth it. avoid junk food that was my mistake take out and junk food.

    • profile image

      Dana Przybyszeski 

      21 months ago

      I had surgery almost 1 month ago and still have pain. Your recovery time say 10 days???

    • peachpurple profile image


      6 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i had gall bladder surgery in 2005 . Before the surgery, It was a bad experience to endure the pain because everything i eat, i had to vomit them out. It was very painful, torture and awful.

    • profile image

      arniel casimsiman 

      6 years ago

      Its very interisting because i knw what food to avoid because i got a surgery

    • fivesenses profile image


      6 years ago from new delhi

      Good info and mother had a gall bladder surgery sometime back and I enjoyed reading the foods to avoid.


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