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Life After Gallbladder Removal Surgery

If you are reading this, your doctor has likely recommended that you have a gallbladder removal procedure. If that is the case, you have probably been feeling unwell for some time now and are relieved to have a diagnosis. It is perfectly normal to have some reservations about having an organ removed, though, so here is an idea of what to expect from surgery and what happens to your body without a gallbladder.

How is the gallbladder removed?

These days, gallbladder removal is a much less invasive type of surgery than it used to be. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is the standard gallbladder surgery now, and it involves just a few small incisions in the abdomen for inserting a small camera and surgical instruments; taking around an hour to complete. Newer procedures have even been done with a single incision at the belly button.

People are normally released from the hospital the same day as their gallbladder surgery, but it takes about a week to recover completely.

Where does bile go when you don't have a gallbladder?

It still goes from the liver to the small intestine via the common bile duct. The gallbladder was just a holding tank for bile, in a more concentrated form. You still have a flow of bile, you just don't have your storage tank anymore.

What to expect right after gallbladder surgery

Digestive side effects

Many people experience bloating for a few days after surgery, and you may even feel it in your shoulders. This is normal and can be relieved with mild exercise, like walking. Constipation and nausea are not uncommon in the first few days (it should be noted that both can be caused by pain medication). A general lack of appetite is a frequently reported symptom following gallbladder surgery, and you may have diarrhea that lasts for a few days, or even weeks.

Other side effects

It will be painful to sleep on your side until you heal up a bit. Another side effect you may experience, though it may seem strange, is to have a cough for a few days after surgery; this is from the breathing tube that was in your throat. If it doesn't go away, see your doctor, as it can turn into a bacterial infection.

Scars after gallbladder removal.

Scars after gallbladder removal.

More on the Gallbladder

Possible long term gallbladder removal consequences

Diarrhea

Many people experience mild diarrhea after the gallbladder removal, since more bile may be entering the intestines without it. This should resolve over time, and can be managed with medication and diet until then. Foods that worsen diarrhea should be avoided:

  • Dairy
  • Greasy foods
  • Sugar
  • Caffeine

Scars

Scarring from your incisions will be minimal, as they are rather small. You can minimize the appearance of your gallstone surgery scars by applying vitamin E after they have completely healed, using sunscreen on them before sun exposure, and through gentle exfoliation.

Change in Diet

Digestion will be a bit more difficult without a gallbladder, so it would be helpful to stick to a low carb, high protein diet. Don't go whole hog on the legumes and higher fiber veggies right away, though; it's important to slowly increase your fiber intake over several weeks. Cooked vegetables are more easily digested than raw, so stick to those in the beginning. You may also need to eat smaller meals, more frequently throughout the day, rather than three large ones. An appropriate diet after gallbladder removal can be found here.

How Was Your Experience?

Life without a gallbladder can be better!

Tip: don't believe everything you read. If you're like me, you've spent time scouring forums and comment sections where people have shared their gallbladder removal horror stories. Just remember that stories like these are not the norm; it is just that people without problems are less likely to complain in a public space.

Many people feel so much better once the gallbladder is removed. While some will now have to restrict certain foods, others will be able to eat anything they want. Everyone's experience is different. If you are still unsure, ask your doctor what the other options are for treating gallbladder disease. If he insists on surgery, but you don't feel sick enough to resort to that, then it's okay to seek a second opinion.

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© 2013 Katie Adams

Comments

Alli on October 08, 2020:

I had my gallbladder removed about 3 weeks ago and healing has been a roller coaster. Eating has been a lot of trial and error. It definitely has taken a toll on me mentally.

Marie Richard on August 19, 2019:

I had mine removed and haven’t been right since. Been sick. Can’t eat anything it seems.

Brad on November 27, 2018:

Kristine

Great article on gallbladder removal. I have mine out in 1986 with the old 8 inch scar. No problems and before the operation I had mistaken symptoms as food poisoning.

And I think back that I wasn't hydrated enough and that could be when gall stones like to thrive:)

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 06, 2018:

I had my surgery several years ago, and recovery from the surgery was pretty easy except for my appetite.

I didn't want much to eat for a while, and rich foods, like lasanga, is still something I don't want. I got sick on it a long ago after the surgery, but I just didn't want to eat something like that anymore. I think it takes a little time for your body to adjust to the gallbladder removal.

Stacy on June 05, 2018:

Since my surgery feeling very drained also light headed I’ve been trying to eat more but appetite still isn’t that great any information appreciated

Jenn Dixon from PA on October 02, 2014:

My mom just had her gallbladder removed last week. Now I know a little bit of what she's going through.

james on September 17, 2014:

I had my gallbladder removed 8 weeks ago by open surgery, other surgeries include a hernia patch about 5 years ago and open exploratory about 30 years ago. Since my gall bladder removal I have pain at belly button (front of stomach and also to the incision site. I just met with my surgeon and he advised me I should be fine and go back to work that I did not need to see him again. I have had ct scans, with and without contrast and it shows no problems. Family doc say to wear hernia belt the rest of my life? The pain is very sensitive to the point I will protect the area from 4 year old bumping into it, also trouble getting in and out of car, off bed, up and down from recliner. I have not taken pain meds for 5 weeks now. Any Ideas? Thanks

amy on September 04, 2014:

I had gallstone surgery a week ago and I am recovering okay ...but I have noticed a lot of pressure in lower pelvic area,,almost like my uterus is heavy down there. Maybe gas?

Linda Sarhan from Lexington KY USA on August 08, 2014:

Very interesting. Great Hub!

Theresa Jonathan from Maseru, Lesotho on July 21, 2014:

Good new for recovery! Eating right food for your blood type is an excellent way for maintaining wellness. I suggest salads dressed without vinegar, use lemon juice instead and olive oil and herbs you like, I like rosemary thyme or mixed spices. Avoid fried foods and drink lots of water.

Amanda on July 21, 2014:

Hi I had surgery for gall bladder today and all been well little discomfort to the incision marks but no need to take tablets for it as it's not that bad I wud highly recommend this surgery to anym1 who suffers from gall stones xx

Theresa Jonathan from Maseru, Lesotho on July 17, 2014:

Thank you for raising awareness about the function of the gallbladder. Many people lack accurate information about this condition. They decline surgery and end up with complications. Public health would help to raise awareness and educate the people about the cause and the benefits of surgery for those already affected.

Lilibeth on July 01, 2014:

I have my gallbladder removed 4 months now, I can say that at the first few days and months I have strange feeling of changes in myself. But as time goes by, I get used to it.

Claire on June 27, 2014:

I had my gallbladder out 2 weeks ago. Stopping the pain killers after 4 days was the best thing I did. I hated the way I felt. In fact, the first night I was off them, I was sleepless all night. Now I have quit coffee and chocolate, and eat more frequent, smaller meals. I must say, I feel terrific! I had been suffering for almost a year. I'm so glad I went ahead with the procedure.

Katie Adams (author) from Midwest on June 21, 2014:

Are you still taking painkillers? That might be the culprit.

debbie on June 20, 2014:

I had my gallbladder removed robotically 5 days ago but I still feel lousy and cant eat anything just some jello here and there as soon as I start eating I just want to vomit... any useful tips would be so helpful

kathy king on June 11, 2014:

hi i had the removal of my gall bladder and now i feel like i need middle back surgery where i never had back pain what must i do now?

Katie Adams (author) from Midwest on June 10, 2014:

Thank you ThelmaC!

Thelma Raker Coffone from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA on June 10, 2014:

I had mine out 20 years ago and absolutely no problems. You did a wonderful job on this hub and you are a very good writer!

Katie Adams (author) from Midwest on May 26, 2014:

Hi Kellie. Yes, I think your pancreas can hurt on that side. Maybe have yourself checked for fructose malabsorption, because artificial sweeteners would cause you all sorts of problems if that were the case. So would "eating healthy," as many fruits and vegetables contain fructose. I hope this helps!

Kellie on May 23, 2014:

I had my gallbladder removed in Feb of this year. I did well after surgery but now over 3 months since surgery I am having extreme pains. Things are getting worse and worse. Pain in my back when I swallow. Pain in my right tibs and back that is constant. Pain and tender in the gallbladder area after all food. Crystal light and artificial sweetners kill me now. I am 5'3 and 95 pounds. I always eat healthy and am so depressed. I had the surgery 3 months after giving birth. They never found any stones. Can your pancreas hurt you on the right side and back? My pain never let's up. Constant. All blood tests were just run and they look great! I am so depressed. I want my life back.

kim.p on April 08, 2014:

I had gallbladder surgery 10mo ago. I have had no major issues until recently. I started to feel a full feeling in my liver area. I thought it would pass in time so I waited. I ended up leaving work one day in severe pain. Worse pain then when my gallbladder was acting up. Sharpe pain with sweaty back and muscle spasms front to back. My doc pulled a liver function test and it came back with slightly elevated enzymes. She had me wait to pull another one a week later. This came back normal. However I still feel a full feeling and often feel my liver twitching. Ech it just keeps reminding me that something could be wrong with my liver....or m heart? The pain did radiation to my chest that day..I am not sure what is going on. Has anyone else had these symptoms and found answers? I am only 26 and 145lbs. I eat healthy..????

Cj74 on January 17, 2014:

hello,

I had my gall bladder removed on July 10,2010 after a 8 hour day filled with violent vomit of bile every 20-40min. I had ultrasound & blood work and they said I had 20-30 gall stones. mind you this is exactly 6mths after a spinal fusion. needless to sayon July 9th I had such bad pain I was placed on morphine for about 12hrs waiting for a second ER general surgeon to come in. They got one in off vacation he did my surgery on 10th I did not feel better,nausea, gas trapped from laproscopic procedure. They proceeded to tilt my bed upside down to help release trapped air. next day they proceeded to release me,my blood pressure was high 158/102 not my normal. I'm usually 98-112/56-72. I told nurse I still feel really bad,lots of pain & nausea they still sent me home& said come to ER If gets bad. I didn't even make it home I started vomiting/ dry heaving, I still went home and tried to convince myself it was the anaesthesia by that evening into next day I could barely move and if I stood up it feel as though my insides were falling down like a brick and still unable to eat and dry heaving. I waited until that next morning and asked my mother who came to help to call ambulance. when I got back to hospital I had to have CT scan and few other test I was Jaundice & seconds from turning septic. They found the Dr did not complexly close my liver. I had to have corrective surgery from ANOTHER Dr I had to have my insides flushes to get all the bile off my organs to stop any curoson,I ended up with a drain outside my body for months. I had to stay I'm hospital for weeks. For over a year I had severe side effects to almost all food and bile pooling. As of today I still on occasion have severe reaction to hot coco or cappuccino. I have serious sensitivity to tomato sauces,oatmeal and soups,salad,red meats,cucumbers;to darn many things.

sorry for long story just wanted to get it all out.

Dan on December 30, 2013:

Just had the surgery yesterday. I had never had pain before and about 4 days ago it started to hurt, went to the ER and they said the gall bladder had to come out. I was sent home the same day, and I'm sitting at my desk now on pain meds, but plan on going into work tomorrow. The surgery so far has been relatively painless.

Robin on December 26, 2013:

I had my Gallbladder removed on 12/11 by Laparoscopic 3-incision, outpatient. Went in at 11:00 and was home by 7:00.

The incisions were sore to the touch for about 5 days and had a pull/hitch/cramp in right side from the muscle being cut (Lower side incision) that only occured when I took a deep breath. This lasted about 10 days. Never felt anything from the belly-button incision. A bit difficult for 3-4 days to turn in bed or get up off the couch, but that lessened in time and now I have no trouble doing anything - even light exercize. Pain for me was minimal, only took 5 pain pills over a 6 day period and none since then. Went back to work the following Monday (5 days after operation).

Took it easy on the food when I got home - apple sauce, white grape juice, broth, etc and gradually added more types of food as I felt better and am still eating light, keeping the dairy and heavy meats to a minimum. Had gas, bloating and diarrhea for about a week, but since then have gone back to normal - more due to surgery/anaesthetic than diet. I've tried cheescake, pumpkin pie, eggnog, liquor, coffee and beef (all the food I've heard horror stories about) and so far, so good.

So that's my story and I hope it helps someone who is searching sites to see how others reacted to having the gallblader removed.

Leticia on December 20, 2013:

I had my surjury last Friday 121313 and I was very nervous. I also started fricking myself out because I kept reading everyone's blog on their experience.. I had gall stones in my gall bladder. I didn't feel anything and had a very good group of medical staff members that made my experience so much better. There are some downfalls after surjury. I was in bed 24-7 for almost 3 days and that was due to the pain killers that were given, very bad experience with that . However it's been a week today and I've managed to feel okay, I tend to watch what I eat, I do have some pain with passing gas and having a bm after I eat ... So good luck to all and hopefully I can start a normal life without anymore complications..

beachcomber 54 on December 19, 2013:

I had my gall bladder removed 4 days ago. 12/13/13. Using the single incision through the belly button procedure. The single incision is great. I don't heal well and this entry has completely eliminated that issue. I am tired, and need to rest more than I expected. I have been eating anything I want, with no issue. And if I had more energy I would be exercising daily. I can sense that my body is working on altering the bile allocation. I have noticed that my appetite is non existent, which is why I read this site as I was concerned. And am feeling more comfortable with the understanding that this it's a temporary result of the surgery.

nunu on December 02, 2013:

I had stones an gallbladder removed oct26 2013 my ribs don't hurt but I have bad cramps an always nausas before an after at times mostly before breakfast feel better after bowel movement how long will diareal go on I'm a barictric patient also 5 ft 140 pounds use to b 160 two months ago

Carol on October 07, 2013:

Hi. I have ask. When can be possible lab-grown gallbladder? I cant life without this organ.

Kourtney on September 24, 2013:

Hi. I had my gallbladder taken out a week ago on Sept 17th, 2013. I'm 18 years old and had gallstones like crazy. So far it's been amazing eating whatever, but I have noticed after certain meals my stomach cramps so bad I could scream and then have to use the restroom and then I'm fine. I'm glad I went ahead and got it removed because I was losing weight due to not being able to eat and being in constant pain, but my friend tried to convince me of trying a bunch of different methods to help with getting rid of my stones. I think in the long run removal is the best way to go, personally anyway.

Amie on September 20, 2013:

Hello, Just had my gall bladder removed 4 days ago and while the spot is somewhat sore, my biggest problem is shooting pains in my lower back that radiates to my legs. Its been happening for the last couple of days. I am still waiting on the surgeon to return my call. I was trying to find out if this was a common side effect but it does not sound like it which makes me worried.....

Paula Bacon Smoak on September 09, 2013:

Thursday, September 5, 2013, I had a laparoscopic gallbladder removal. I had written and communicated to my physician that I had 5 previous surgeries in or at my abdominal wall during a 25 year period. The doctor still proceeded laparoscopic, and what was to take 1 hour turned in to 2:30 hours. What was to be 4 incisions turned into 9. Of course, I was not awake to have any conversation with him, but he told my daughter he had to "tunnel" his way through scar tissue to get to the gallbladder. My pain is still quite intense. :( I would like to know if anyone else out there got so many incision sights with an laparoscopic procedure?

I was told before surgery there would be NO dietary restrictions, yet everything I read says you should change your diet.

Anxious to get rid of this pain and get back to normal.

Thank you.

Bee from Jax, Fl on September 08, 2013:

Hi everyone

I had my gallbladder removed on 9/02\2013...actually last Monday...i'm still a lil sore bt nothing compared to the agony pain I felt before surgery...i had two kids natural and those gallbladder attacks was 10x's worse...i just wish I would've got the surgery earlier instead of allowing anxiety to kick in for nearly 2yrs...trust me the surgery and recovery is a breeze...i've been able to eat mostly anything...a helpful hint: walk as soon as you're able to it will really help with recovery and gas issues from the carbon dioxide gas...very helpful article as well...

Katie Adams (author) from Midwest on September 05, 2013:

Just make sure that if it gets worse to see the doc. Don't let it turn into a serious lung infection.

Kim sheppard on September 05, 2013:

Hi

Just wanted to say I had my gallbladder removed yesterday and I too read all the horror stories (wish I had seen this article first) I'm reviled to hear that this cough is normal.. Although painful :(

hi on August 24, 2013:

I am also going to remove my gallbladder about two weeks from now and I am in myself. I am very afried that mylife will not be the same after the surgery, but this site help me a bit. thanks

Katie Adams (author) from Midwest on August 22, 2013:

Thank you for your comment!

k2berman on August 22, 2013:

I had my gallbladder removed in March of 2012 because of episodes of pain every week, sometimes twice. I don't eat junk food and make food from scratch. At first, I cut out dairy and that seemed to work, then lean meats were a no no, then chicken, then red peppers, then soup! By the time I went to the surgeon as I tried to go the natural root for a few months to attempt to reduce gallstones, he checked off 18 of his 20 check list that was pretty extensive. Had to be removed. Biopsy showed extensive disease. I have had only one episode since that landed me back in the ER. However, I do find that I get episodes of indigestion. May get into the habit of doing a liver cleanse from time to time. This is a very good article and hope that many people in my situation come across it. It is important to seek a doctor who is committed to finding the best solution for you and not just sharpen the knife. I only went to one surgeon, but was completely satisfied with his screening process.

Katie Adams (author) from Midwest on August 22, 2013:

It could be scar tissue, I suppose. I'm not a doctor, though.

deb on August 21, 2013:

I had my gallbladder out about 4 years ago .I have more problems now than I did before. weight gain, not having decent b,m's. I still have some pain from the surgery incision area. The doctor said it was just from the muscles in the surgery area. Why after all this time it still is sore?

Katie Adams (author) from Midwest on August 21, 2013:

Coffee is notorious for causing problems.

Mary on August 20, 2013:

Had surgery two weeks ago. .an was goin good till now. .think it might be the pizza sauce or to strong coffee. .not sure. Very nauces,gas,diarrhea. .

Katie Adams (author) from Midwest on August 19, 2013:

Well if it's only been 2 weeks, it's possible that you are still healing internally. You may be noticing pain you didn't feel when you were still on painkillers? Make sure you are following a gallbladder diet.

Marie on August 18, 2013:

My gallbladder was removed 2 weeks ago. The surgery was nothing! The first week was rough because of the stitched up stomach muscles. I didn't have any stones, just a low functioning gallbladder. My concern is that I still have a pain in my right rib cage where my gallbladder used to be. It's almost like throbbing or cramping. Is this normal? Will it go away over time? Just a little bit concerned...

Peeples from South Carolina on August 18, 2013:

Thanks for writing this. I was told yesterday that I would need my gallbladder removed and since have been scouring HP looking for info! This was very helpful and calmed some of my anxiety, though I wonder if I will ever be able to enjoy spicy foods again.

Katie Adams (author) from Midwest on August 18, 2013:

Mira - do you drink coffee in the morning? Coffee is known to cause diarrhea for people without a gallbladder. Possibly eggs, too. Foods with high fat content will be hard for you to process now.

Arun Sharma on August 17, 2013:

I had my gall bladder removed five days back. The first day was painful but it was taken care of by pain killers. The scars have now healed and I feel much better though a little bit of stomach discomfort with gases. But they are minor. The first three days I could not pass any motions but now I am fine. I am glad I went through the procedure of gall bladder removal. Arun Sharma. pune India.

Mira on August 17, 2013:

Hi I had my gallblader removed 3 months ago thru open colon operation. I can eat anything now, no pain anymore, but my worst complain is diarrhea every morning after my breakfast, i need to hurry in the toilet after meal. My stool is always yellowish looks like billirubin on it. What is worst is when im on my way to work and i need to work and my diarrhea attacks me in the car or at any public places.

Katie Adams (author) from Midwest on August 15, 2013:

Not sure on that one. Could be low stomach acid (same symptoms as high). Look up usage of Betaine HCl for treatment.

BOTOMAN XOLANI on August 15, 2013:

HAD MY GALLBLADDER REMOVED 3YEARS AGO BUT EXPERIENCING STUMACK ACID EVERY WINTER SEASON SO WHAT COULD BE THE PROBLEM

Katie Adams (author) from Midwest on August 11, 2013:

jdzzz - Stones can block ducts, causing you to become very ill. It's nothing to mess around with. If you are in severe pain, then yes, go to the ER.

tgirl25 on August 10, 2013:

I just had Emergency Gallbladder Surgery 3 days ago and it was helpful to get more info, some of it I had heard from others as it seems about 1/4th of the people I know seem to have had this surgery. I was filled in on a couple more things that I thought I would share here.

1st your body will have a harder time breaking down the components of many vitamins, so if you weren't taking a multi before now is the time to start. It will help with mood as well as recovery.

2nd you need to eat every 2-4hrs, if you don't your liver could dump the bile and you could end up with Dumping Syndrome which to hear about it, sounds quite painful. Just adding in snacks can help that from happening.

I am going to try to make the recovery as fast as I can but without pushing it. I get up and walk around, make meals for the family still.

I am bloated and gassy like crazy. Trying to do more natural foods but that can be hard. Will work on it though. Thanks alot, T

jdzzz on August 09, 2013:

Acute pancreatitis is the culprit for my gallbladder being removed one week ago. Pain in my ribs radiating to my back and shoulder occurred the day after surgery and has continued on and off since. however, yesterday the pain kept taking my breath away, it hurt so much. I loaded up on pain meds and vowed to call the surgeon and GP in the morning. Called them both this morning and, Surgeon's office and Gp want me to go back to the ER which was a nightmare the first time. They treated me like an alcoholic as soon as I volunteered I drank wine most nights...a glass or two or three on occasion. Hospital even had me on detox watch!!! They blamed alcohol on my pancreatitis. three days after being hospitalized they told me my gall bladder had sludge and it COULD also be the cause. Anyway not in a hurry to go back to the hospital

I did not take their advice and go to the ER. I actually decided I should not mask the pain any longer, so no pain meds today. The right-side rib/back pain is constant but not as severe as yesterday. I can't help but worrying if it is my pancreas again, if I am making the right decision not going back to the hospital, if I now have stones somewhere in my abdomen, will the pain eventually go away?

Katie Adams (author) from