Hernia and 
General Surgeon  
02380 178 991 
From Consultant Surgeon Mr James Kirkby-Bott

More Information about Gallbladder Issues

Post operation advice from Consultant Surgeon Mr James Kirkby-Bott

Cholecystectomy Gallbladder Surgery:

Post Operation Advice

The following advice has been written by your gallbladder surgeon - Mr James Kirkby-Bott, with advice on helping with your recovery. Please read it and use the advice to help minimise discomfort and maximise your outcome.

How will you feel after gallbladder surgery?

The first 2-3 days are the worst in terms of feeling discomfort, nausea, tiredness, a sore throat and generally not feeling yourself. Gallbladder surgery and general anaesthetic are perceived by your body as a trauma. This takes some time and patience to recover from.
Mr Kirkby-Bott says
“If I can offer any general advice it is this:
  • Try not to get pre-occupied with how you feel or how you feel compared to what you have been expecting. Instead try and go with the flow.
  • Give yourself a period of rest time from work and activities.
  • As each day passes try and increase your activity levels doing gentle exercise and keeping moving around the house. Going for a walk might be pleasant, but don’t do strenuous sports until you feel up to it.
  • Remember any unusual sensations are temporary and will improve as time goes by. Don’t be distracted by feeling unwell.
Stay positive – doing things you enjoy for your rest time will help you achieve this. It is OK to enjoy your recovery time. After all you’ve just had a big gallbladder operation and deserve the rest!”

Wound Dressings:

The following advice is designed to make your scar feel as close to invisible and normal, like before your gallbladder surgery, as your body will allow. It will all heal well, but following this advice will maximise the final outcome you have.
The four small wounds are covered in a plaster and under this are small adhesive strips (called steristrips) that are positioned to take tension off your wound edges. This helps neat healing and a neat scar. Leave these on for 10 days. Underneath the skin is closed with an absorbable stitch that doesn’t need removing.
It is OK to shower from the first morning after gallbladder surgery.
No need to feel grungy or stinky! Keep the dressing in place for 10 days and pat it dry when wet.
Make yourself comfortable.
If the dressing starts to come off, please replace it with a fresh one. However, the fewer dressing changes the better for avoiding wound infection.
You will have a bruise and maybe some mild swelling.
This happens to everyone. It will look reddy-brown and be sore. This is normal healing, not a sign of a wound infection. Leave it alone and don’t worry about it. It will disappear as a bruise usually does and the swelling will go down with the bruise disappearing. This is often mistaken for a wound infection. Infections take between 4-7 days to happen. Infections make the wound red and angry with weeping and increasing pain. If this is what you have noted call the hospital and ask for a wound review. If it is an infection we can start a simple course of antibiotics.

Scar Healing

From day 1 perform regular stretches to the point of slight discomfort and continue at least daily, noting how the range of movement changes each day.
After 10 days remove any dressings. It will have healed by now. To help the scar heal as neatly as possible, continue the stretches and start to apply a moisturizer (any that you would happily put on your face is fine) twice a day to the whole of the front of your wounds and rub firmly (to the point it is slightly uncomfortable). This will help keep tissue layers free and ensure the area feels comfortable to move in the long term.
It takes a good 12 months for scars to fully heal and the tissues to remodel. During this time don’t be surprised if the scar becomes raised or coloured. Just perform the exercises above and wait. It will subside and become less apparent as the remodelling continues.

Follow up

Mr Kirkby-Bott always follows up gallbladder cases. At this meeting we can:
  • Discuss the histology or diagnosis from the resected specimen.
  • Review any blood results taken and to ensure you have recovered as expected and to review surgery success.
  • Discuss any questions you have regarding your surgery, post surgery recovery and anything else that will help you get the best outcome from your surgery.
We will then discharge your care back to your referring doctor.

Ultimately, it is up to you as to how much you follow this post-surgery advice and information. Your recovery will be affected by how closely you follow this guide.


If after reading this a couple of times you still have questions, please email them to us prior to your surgery so we can answer them and make sure you are comfortable with and understand what you are agreeing to and why.

Activities Post Gallbladder Surgery

From Day 1
  • You can shower.
  • You can be up, dressed and mobile.
From Day 10
  • You can get the wound wet in a bath.
  • You can get in a swimming pool once all the dressings are off and the wound is dry.
  • Exercise as you feel able from day 1. Start with a gentle walk.
  • Running, cycling and exercise classes should be ok from day 10.
  • The more strenuous the activity the longer the rest time needed before resuming the activity.
  • Weight classes may need 4-6 weeks before they feel OK to join. Start with higher repetitions of small weights rather than low repetitions of high weights.
As a general rule, if it feels comfortable to do it is OK to do it. If not comfortable, stop and try again in a couple of days.
  • To be able to drive the law states that you must be able to safely perform an emergency stop.
  • It is also worth making sure you can turn to look back over your shoulder.
  • This might take 10-14 days.
Time off work
Expect to need some time (typically 2-3 weeks) off work depending on what you do.

Pain Relief

Everyone is sent home after gallbladder surgery with pain relief. Some people don’t feel they need it, and some do. Take it as you need to, but follow this advice for the best results:

Take paracetamol regularly four times a day until you aren’t taking anything else and then start to take it as you need to until you no longer need it. In the prescribed dose it has no side effects and is the most effective painkiller on the market.
If more pain relief is needed, take some Ibuprofen in addition to the paracetamol. Take it up to three times a day with some food or a nutritious drink. This drug has some interactions with other health problems, but taken in the prescribed amount for a just a few days is generally very safe with few side effects. You can ask for advice about whether to take this if you feel uncertain.
Lastly, you will go home with Dihydrocodeine. This painkiller is really strong, and if taken when not really needed will cause sleepiness and can cause headaches. It also causes constipation, so make sure your bowel habit is regular (aim for once day). Use a laxative if you need to use this drug and it is causing constipation. Only take this as required. Add it to the paracetamol and Ibuprofen that you should already be taking.

Changes to Bowel Function

Your gallbladder has no real function beyond storing bile that is released to help digest the fats in food and drink. Without a gallbladder, your liver will still make bile and release it with meals.
Over a few months, some adaptations occur to mean more bile is held in the bile duct to secrete after meals and aid digestion. In the meantime, a heavy or large meal (especially if containing a lot of fats) may cause bloating and some discomfort. This might increase your bowel frequency too. It can last for a few months (up to about 6) and will improve over this time.
To minimise this effect, try avoiding significant amounts of fat in your diet. Remember that most foods and many drinks have some fat content. Both 'good' and 'bad' fats need bile to absorb them so even a healthy diet can cause these effects at first. Some websites offering medical advice call this 'post cholecystectomy syndrome'.
Everyone is different, so different people, each with a different diet, will experience this normal physiological process differently.