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Discharge Instructions for Open Cholecystectomy

You have had a procedure known as an open cholecystectomy. This is a procedure to remove the gallbladder through a cut (incision) in your belly. You either had an up-and-down (vertical) incision in the middle of your belly. Or you had a crosswise incision in the upper-right part of your belly beneath your ribs.

You can live a full and healthy life without your gallbladder. This includes eating the foods and doing the things you enjoyed before your gallbladder problems started. Here are guidelines for home care after surgery.

Home care

Recommendations for home care include:

  • Ask someone to drive you to your appointments for the next week. Don’t drive until you are no longer taking pain medicine and can step on the brake pedal without hesitation. 

  • Don’t worry if you feel tired for the first couple of weeks after your surgery. Fatigue is common: 

    • Nap when you feel tired.

    • Get plenty of rest.

  • Walk around the house, do office work, climb stairs, or ride in a car if you feel able to do so.

  • Don’t do any strenuous physical activities, heavy lifting (nothing heavier than 10 pounds or 4.5 kg), or sports for 4 weeks after surgery.

  • Eat your normal diet. If your healthcare provider advises a low-fat diet, ask for menus and other diet information.

  • If you are constipated, discuss a bowel regimen with your provider. Pain medicines can be constipating. Increased fiber and a stool softener are often helpful.

  • Gently wash the skin around your incision daily with mild soap and water.

  • If there is a gauze dressing on your incision, change it daily or as often as needed to keep it dry and clean.

  • You may take a shower (even if there is a surgical drain in place), unless your healthcare provider gives you different directions.

  • Don’t sit in a bathtub, swimming pool, or hot tub until the incision is closed and any surgical drains are removed.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Yellowing of your skin or eyes (jaundice)

  • Chills

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, pus, or a bad smell at the incision site

  • Dark or rust-colored urine

  • Stool that is clay-colored or light in color instead of brown

  • Upset stomach (nausea) and vomiting

  • Increasing belly pain

  • Rectal bleeding

  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath

  • Leg swelling

Online Medical Reviewer: Jen Lehrer MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Kenny Turley PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2019
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