Open surgery recovery

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I had open surgery five and a half weeks ago. Was supposed to be keyhole but I had to convert to open as I had an empyema (pus in gallbladder) and one huge gallstone completely blocking the cystic bile duct. Surgery was quite tricky and I was not in a good way afterwards as opiate based painkillers have little effect on me. This resulted in being sedated with ketamine in addition to being on two drips (antibiotics and morphine), on oxygen and also catheterised in the High Dependency Unit.

I stayed in hospital for five days during which time I had an ultrasound on my liver as LFTs were astronomically high but nothing showed except a large blood clot at surgery site.

I have definitely improved over the last few weeks but still rather uncomfortable and achy all over right of abdomen and lower back. Areas are sore to touch, even above the aborted keyhole incision in my belly button.

My LFTs are still sky high (I had another ultrasound to check for blocked bile duct but thankfully nothing showed up but there are still large, residual blood clots on my liver) and both my GP and consultant are happy liver is improving (but obviously inflamed).

Anyway, my question is....if anyone else has had open surgery (and the  nurse who did my bloods last week hadn't seen an open scar for a long time!), how long did it take to fully recover? I'm supposed to be back at work this week after six weeks off but still not sure if I'm up to it. The nature of my job means I REALLY need to go back soon. I'm not sure if I should be 100% pain free first or not. I think I will ask my GPs opinion next week but would be really interested in any other people's experiences of open surgery as a vast majority of posts (and people I have spoken to) refer to keyhole.

I'm still a bit freaked out that I had an empyema which can have a quite high mortality rate. I have been completely asymptomatic apart from one bout of cholecystitis last year. How I go away with that given the size of the gallstone (about 5cm), I do not know!

Many thanks for any responses.

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  • Posted

    I had open GB surgery and the bile duct was also removed the stones were caught in the duct. The recovery time was about 6 weeks but I was up walking 5 days OK NO PAIN meds a few days after returning home.

    . No lifting or bending. Follow thru with restrictions on movements and diet . Fatty foods were advised to be avoided for a few months.

    Many healing blessings sent your way.


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  • Posted

    Hi, sorry but I've only just had keyhole surgery but I would say your best bet is your gp about going back to work. It maybe that you go back part time but alot of it is about how you're feeling, don't forget you've gone through major surgery with complications so the 6 weeks they say is just the minimum for open surgery. Your body won't be fully healed for several weeks more and if you have problems with your liver then it may take a bit longer. 

    I saw on the internet some very large gallstones but as we all know most gallstones don't cause problems until they try to move out of the gallbladder and its usually the small ones that give the worst pain. I know people who have gallstones that have been found looking at other things but they haven't caused problems so they leave them alone.

    I think now that you've had surgery you can move forward and aim to get yourself well and back to normal.

    See your gp or consultant about going back to work and perhaps speak to your employer about what you might find difficult or need flexibility.

    Keep us updated with your progress. take care.


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  • Posted

    Sorry to learn that you've had to go through this!  I suggest that you visit with your gp or consultant.  Remind both of them that you've had open surgery, as it is relatively rare, and they see so many patients.  Then, you can ask them to do a letter to your supervisor at work. If your job doesn't involve physical activity, then you might be able to return sooner.  But I would say start at an additional month off.  You want to make sure that the infection is clear and that your insides are healing properly.  

     Your stitches, both outside and inside will take a while to heal. But the outside stitches will heal faster.  They've a lot less knitting together to do than the inside.  Healing is critical for your recovery!

    I can understand the need to return to work, but if your recovery is compromised by returning to work too soon, you could make things worse!

    Best of luck to you!  


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  • Posted

    Hi, at last found someone who has had exactly the same as me, i had my open op 5th Dec and only just starting to feel human again, felt really down over xmas as incision was so sore and stinging, even the keyhole cuts, big incision is still a bit red and stingy but know where near as bad, still numb above belly button and the right side of tummy, hope the feeling comes back, guess it all takes time, i do hope things start to improve for you, please let me know how you are doing in a few weeks or so, sending lots of hugs xx
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    • Posted

      We seem to be a rare breed! The nurse was quite excited to see an open surgery scar as it's so rare these days. Going to GP tomorrow before a 'return to work' meeting to get their opinion. After being hospitalised for cholecystitis, I went back to work too soon and had to have a further week off. Don't want to make the same mistake again. My scars are actually looking pretty good (can barely see the belly button incision at all); my nurse friend reckons female surgeons do a neater job! The numbness is pretty weird and I was warned I may never get feeling back. I can imagine Christmas was miserable, I have done hardly anything for six weeks except sit on the sofa watching box sets!

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    • Posted

      Hi, the nurses at my hospital said the same about the surgeon's when they looked at my dressings they said it must've been the surgeon's assistant who was a female doctor! 

      I hope you continue to improve, take care x

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  • Posted

    GP said to go back to work, but take it easy. He's an ex-surgeon so knew a fair bit about cholecystectomies. Doing part time until I feel up to full days, work are very supportive. Have another ultrasound next week to check if blood clots are dissipating. GP says they can be the source of an abscess if not! Eek.

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