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Patient education: Cholecystectomy – Discharge instructions (The Basics)

Patient education: Cholecystectomy – Discharge instructions (The Basics)

What are discharge instructions? — Discharge instructions are information about how to take care of yourself after getting medical care for a health problem.

What is cholecystectomy? — Cholecystectomy is surgery to remove the gallbladder (figure 1). This surgery can be done in 2 ways:

Open surgery – During an open surgery, the doctor makes a cut, or "incision," in the belly to remove the gallbladder.

Minimally invasive surgery – "Minimally invasive" surgery lets the doctor make smaller cuts in the belly. They insert long, thin tools through the cuts. One of the tools has a camera (called a "laparoscope") on the end, which sends pictures to a TV screen. The doctor can look at the screen to see inside the belly. Then, they use the long tools to do the surgery. They can control the tools directly, or with the help of a robot (this is called "robot-assisted" surgery).

How long it takes for you to recover, and what you need to do, depends on which type of surgery you had. If you had minimally invasive surgery, you might be able to return to your normal activities sooner. With open surgery, it usually takes longer to recover.

How do I care for myself at home? — Ask the doctor or nurse what you should do when you go home. Make sure that you understand exactly what you need to do to care for yourself.

You should also:

Take care of your incision – You might have stitches, skin staples, surgical glue, or a special kind of skin tape on your incision. If you had laparoscopic surgery, you might have more than 1 incision.

Keep your incision dry and covered with a bandage for the first 1 to 2 days after surgery. Your doctor or nurse will tell you exactly how long to keep your incision dry.

Once you no longer need to keep your incision dry, gently wash it with soap and water whenever you take a shower. Do not put your incision underwater, such as in a bath, pool, or lake. Getting it too wet can slow healing and raise your chance of getting an infection.

After you wash your incision, pat it dry. Your doctor or nurse will tell you if you need to put an antibiotic ointment on the incision. They will also tell you if you need to cover your incision with a bandage or gauze.

Always wash your hands before and after you touch your incision or bandage.

Increase your activity slowly – Start with short walks around your home, and walk a little more each day.

Keep coughing and doing deep breathing exercises for 7 to 10 days after you go home. This will help prevent lung infections. When you cough, sneeze, or do deep breathing exercises, press a pillow across your incision to support the wound and ease pain.

Avoid heavy lifting, sports, and swimming for at least a week or 2. (Your doctor or nurse will tell you exactly how long to avoid these activities.)

Use a stool softener to help prevent constipation, if needed. This is a common problem if you take opioid pain medicines.

Be aware that if you had minimally invasive surgery, you might have some pain in your shoulder. This is from gas that the doctor put into your belly during the surgery. Walking and moving around will help to reduce the gas and ease the pain.

What follow-up care do I need? — The doctor will want to see you again after surgery to check on your progress. Go to these appointments.

If you have stitches or staples, you will need to have them taken out. Your doctor will probably want to do this in 1 to 2 weeks. If the doctor used skin glue or tape, it will fall off on its own. Do not pick at it or try to remove it yourself.

When should I call the doctor? — Call for advice if:

You have a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or chills.

You have redness or swelling around your incisions.

You have nausea or vomiting.

You have cramping or more severe belly pain.

You have bloating (feeling like your belly is full of gas).

Your skin or eyes are yellow.

Your urine is very dark in color.

More on this topic

Patient education: Cholecystectomy (The Basics)
Patient education: Gallstones (The Basics)
Patient education: Acute pancreatitis (The Basics)
Patient education: Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) (The Basics)

Patient education: Gallstones (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Acute pancreatitis (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Chronic pancreatitis (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jun 02, 2024.
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