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General overview

Gallbladder surgery (cholecystectomy) is done to remove the gallbladder when it becomes pathological. The reasons for this could be due to gallstones causing pain or obstruction and infection of the gallbladder.

The gallbladder doesn't have any vital function besides storing bile which is produced by the liver. Bile is used for helping to digest fat that enters the small intestine from the stomach.

Procedure

Nowadays, a cholecystectomy is done laparoscopically which means that small incisions are made in the abdomen and cameras are used to aid the surgeon. The cameras, together with the other equipment used, are needed to help visualize the gallbladder and then facilitate its removal.

In order to be able to visualize the gallbladder, as well as the other organs and also to make space for the surgeon to work in, the abdomen is filled with carbon dioxide (CO2) to help expand the abdomen. When the surgeon is done with the procedure, the surgical team allow for as much of the gas to escape before the patient is transferred to ward.

What causes the bloated feeling after the procedure?

Not all of the CO2 escapes after the procedure so the patient's abdomen will still feel bloated due to this. It is an uncomfortable situation but this is a self-limiting issue which usually resolves on its own within a few days

Another important aspect is the patient's diet. After having a cholecystectomy done, the body needs some time before being able to adjust proper bile secretion into the small intestines. Certain dietary adjustments need to be done but the patient should be able to return to their regular diet within a month after surgery. 

How to manage bloating

The following list helps to mention some ways one can try and limit abdominal bloating through dietary changes.

  • Stick with clear fluid intake and broths for the first couple of days after the procedure. Thereafter, one can gradually start to add more solid food back into the diet.
  • Avoid high-fat and deep fried foods as well as spicy foods with strong odours. These will include poultry skin, mutton, pizzas, sausages, potato chips and French fries, cream based soups, gravies, full-fat cheeses, full-cream milk and chocolates.
  • Slowly reintroduce high fibre/gas-producing foods such as beans, nuts, seeds, whole-grain bread, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. The less the intestines have to expand and contract, the better it will be for the patient.

Danger signs

The following signs and symptoms should alert one to possible complications after surgery. It could mean that there's possible obstruction which can cause intra-abdominal pressure effects. They warrant an immediate consultation with the surgeon who performed the procedure or the patient should present themselves to an emergency room as soon as possible.

  • Severe nausea or vomiting.
  • Jaundice.
  • Persistent abdominal pain which isn't resolving or worsening abdominal pain.
  • No bowel movements for more than 3 days after the procedure.
  • Not being able to pass any gas more than 3 days after the procedure. 
  • The patient is experiencing diarrhoea which lasts longer than 3 days after the procedure.

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