Life after Gallbladder Surgery: Your Questions Answered

October 13, 2021
William Hanner D.O.

Are you having your gallbladder removed? If so, you probably have many questions about what to expect once the procedure is completed. You may be wondering what your life will be life, and how your everyday activities and habits may be affected.

 The good news is, life after gallbladder surgery can be very successful for the patient, especially when you know what to expect. At Midtown Surgical & Skin Institute, we want you to be well informed about what you can anticipate once your gallbladder surgery is completed. 

 Below, you will find answers to the most common questions we hear about living happily and healthily after your gallbladder removal.

 Gallbladder Basics

 The gallbladder is a small organ in your abdomen, but it plays a large role in your body—collecting and storing bile that helps you to break down and digest the food you eat. Over time, the gallbladder can become inflamed and create gallstones that block its vital bile ducts, causing significant pain.

 When the gallbladder becomes symptomatic, the best solution may be to remove the gallbladder entirely.

 If you are planning to have your gallbladder removed, you are not alone. Gallbladder removal is a relatively common procedure, with around 700,000 Americans needing to have this surgery each year.

 Learn more about dealing with gallbladder problems here.

 Life after the Gallbladder Is Removed

 Gallbladder removal is a major surgery that involves the use of general anesthesia. It affects your abdomen, the center of your body where many of your most important organs are located. So once your gallbladder is removed, you will need to take time to recover. 

 Here is a closer look at what to expect next.

What symptoms may occur during the recovery process?

Recovering from gallbladder surgery takes anywhere from a couple of weeks to 4-6 weeks, depending on factors such as the type of surgery (laparoscopic or open surgery), your overall wellness, and other issues.

You may experience:

Temporary Pain

It is common to experience pain in the region where surgery is performed, which in the case of gallbladder removal means the incision site and the surrounding abdomen. You may also experience back pain and even pain in your shoulder area, which results from the air pumped into your abdomen during the surgery.

This pain should fade over the course of a few days after your surgery. And it is usually treatable with over-the-counter products such as Acetaminophen and ibuprofen, as well as ice packs.


Because gallbladder removal surgery involves pumping air into your abdomen as part of the procedure, you will experience temporary bloating or swelling that will decrease within a few days of the surgery. It may be uncomfortable, but it should improve quickly as the air has a chance to dissipate.


Due to the stress of surgery, you may experience a slight fever (under 101 degrees) that goes away within a few days. If you have a low-grade fever, you may use over-the-counter medication to address it, as well as drinking plenty of water and getting plenty of rest. 

If you have a fever over 101 degrees or have other symptoms in addition to the fever—such as nausea, pus draining from the incision site, or swelling and redness around the incision site—contact your doctor because these may be symptoms of post-surgical infection.

Be Sure to Contact Your Doctor with Any Questions or Concerns

Remember, it is perfectly acceptable to contact your doctor to ask questions and gain reassurance about your recovery. So, if you are feeling uncertain or want more guidance, call your doctor’s office.

How does your body adapt after gallbladder removal?

The role of the gallbladder is important indigestion, but fortunately, your liver can take on that role over time. The liver will continue to produce enough bile to aid in digestion. Yet without the gallbladder, there is no place to store the bile between meals.

This means that your liver will need to produce more bile in real-time, as you eat. Over time, it will become quicker at doing so. And your bile ducts may even enlarge to provide room for bile storage in the absence of the gallbladder.

How soon will you be back to normal after gallbladder removal? 

The recovery time after gallbladder surgery will vary somewhat depending on your individual circumstances and your body’s overall wellness. And “back to normal” can also differ from person to person. In general, you can expect the following as you heal.


You can begin to shower as soon as you feel up for it after your procedure. Your doctor will provide any instructions regarding how to care for your incision.


It is normal to have a decreased appetite while the anesthesia wears off. If it helps, you can eat several small meals rather than eating a few large ones as you recover.

Daily Activities

As your body recovers, you can begin to resume normal activities, but it is also important to pace yourself. Get plenty of rest, and know that it will be a few weeks before your energy levels return to normal. 


Engage in light motion as you are able during the first week of your recovery because gentle movement helps your body recuperate. Short, slow walks can help, as can slow stair-climbing in small doses. When you tire, stop and rest. 

However, be careful not to overdo it. Avoid lifting anything heavier than five pounds for at least six weeks. And do not engage in strenuous exercises such as long runs, weight lifting, or boot camp workouts until your doctor clears you to do so.


Your return to work will depend on several factors. A general rule of thumb is that you can get back to work in 1-2 weeks after laparoscopic surgery, and 3-4 weeks after open surgery. Note that your body may need more time than that to recover. 

In addition, realize that light office work that involves a lot of sitting will be something you can return to more quickly than work that requires a lot of standing and walking and heavy lifting.

Additional Tips for Living Without a Gallbladder

In general, life after gallbladder removal is not likely to be too much changed from your life right now. But there are some changes to be aware of, as well as possible risks to keep in mind.

Your eating habits may change.

Digestive changes are common, especially in the first few weeks after surgery as your body adapts to the lack of a gallbladder. At first, you may experience some bloating, gas, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort after eating. These symptoms can be eased by cutting back on your intake of:

  • Fatty foods
  • Fried foods
  • High-fat meat
  • Dairy products
  • Heavy cooking oils
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Spicy foods

Another tip is to eat smaller meals so your body does not have to work as hard at digestion. Over time, most people find themselves able to resume most of their normal eating habits within a month or two after their surgery.

You may lose weight—at least temporarily.

Between the decreased appetite that is common after undergoing surgery and the dietary changes you will make as you recover, you may find that you are dropping some weight in the weeks after your gallbladder is removed. This is not unusual.

As your diet goes more back to normal, you may gain that weight back unless you take steps to keep the weight off. It may be worth consulting with both your doctor and a nutritionist or physical trainer to create a healthy plan for weight loss or weight maintenance.

You may need to hold off on certain activities while you recover.

As mentioned above, your recovery will take time, and that means you will need to temporarily refrain from some of your normal activities. You should avoid lifting heavy objects, doing intense workouts, and taxing your body to the point of fatigue.

What if I am planning a trip by airplane?

Activities such as flying on a plane may need to wait until you are well recovered from your gallbladder removal. This is due to the fact that conditions such as deep-vein thrombosis (blood clots resulting from long periods of sitting) are more common immediately after surgery.

A general guideline is that you should wait at least 4-5 days after abdominal surgery if the procedure was an uncomplicated laparoscopy. If you have open surgery or have experienced complications during or after the procedure, you may need to wait 10 days or more before you can safely take a flight.

You may experience some of the risks associated with gallbladder surgery.

No surgery is total without the possibility of complications. While these risks are usually quite rare, it makes sense to be aware of them before you commit to any surgery. Issues that may occur due to gallbladder removal can include.

  • Bile leaking into the abdomen during the procedure—a procedure to drain the bile may be needed
  • Injuries to the bile duct, an artery, or a nearby organ—note that this risk is extremely rare
  • Continued abdominal pain—this is usually temporary
  • Blood clots—your doctor can advise you if you are at an increased risk of this
  •  Infection internally or at the incision site—which can usually be treated with antibiotics
  • Reactions to anesthesia—severe allergic reactions are very rare
  •  Scarring at the incision site
  • Hernia due to surgery—if this occurs, another procedure may be needed to resolve the hernia
  • Lung infection—in rare cases, the breathing tube used during surgery can cause pneumonia

Again, these side effects of gallbladder removal do not happen often, but it is still wise to discuss your personal risk levels with your doctor. 

Gallbladder Surgery from a Tulsa Surgeon You Can Trust

Having your gallbladder removed is a major procedure, but you can experience a successful surgery and recovery that improves your health and quality of life.

At Midtown Surgical & Skin Institute, we offer personalized attention and individualized care that you can count on, whether you are considering gallbladder surgery or any other of the many medical services we provide. Our team will work closely with you to ensure you make the best decision for yourself regarding your health.

Contact our team today to learn more about our gallbladder care and other healthcare services, so we can help you enjoy the healthy lifestyle you desire.

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