Pain After Gallbladder Removal Surgery

Published: February 10, 2017
Last reviewed: November 18, 2017

Most individuals can expect to have mild to moderate pain for several days to weeks after gallbladder removal surgery. If the pain lasts longer or appears months later, it can be a sign of a surgery complication.

Expected Pain Due To a Surgical Procedure

The pain after surgery can arise from a surgical wound or the gas insufflated into the abdominal cavity during the procedure.

1. Pain From a Surgical Incision or Scar

Pain in the surgical incision can persist for few days after laparoscopic and few weeks after open gallbladder surgery.

A surgical wound that is painful, reddened, swollen or draining needs to be checked by a doctor for an infection.

Normal scars should not be painful. Raised and red scars can be itchy or painful for months or years [1].

2. Pain From the Insufflated Gas

The gas that has been insufflated into the abdominal cavity during a laparoscopic surgery can irritate the abdominal membrane (peritoneum) and cause sharp pain in the abdomen. Additionally, the gas can irritate the diaphragm muscle between the abdominal and chest cavity and cause pain in the lower chest and middle back and referred pain at the tip of the right, left or both shoulder blades [2]. The gas and pain usually disappear in few days.

Pain Due To Surgery Side Effects or Complications

The pain that is severe or lasts for more than a month after surgery can be due to a surgery complication or side effect of the changed bile flow.

1. Internal Infection

Abdominal infection can cause fever, chills, severe abdominal pain or pus draining from the surgical wound [3].

2. Bile Leakage

Bile leakage can occur after an accidental injury of the bile duct during the surgery [4,5].

3. Bile Reflux

Bile reflux can cause gastritis, peptic ulcer or esophagitis with gnawing stomach pain, burning pain behind the breastbone (heartburn) or acid burps [3,4,6,12,13,14].

4. Adhesions

Adhesions are bands of the connective tissue (internal scars) that often develop between the organs after abdominal surgery. They can pull the gallbladder duct, liver or intestine and cause vague right upper abdominal pains [4,7]. Adhesions can be found and removed by a laparoscopic procedure [15].

5. Bile Duct Obstruction

Bile duct obstruction can be caused by [3,4,5,8,9,17]:

Symptoms of bile duct obstruction can include:

  • Pain in the right upper abdomen that appears within an hour after a meal (or at any time) remains constant for 30 minutes to several hours and is accompanied by nausea or vomiting
  • Pain that is recurrent but does not appear in regular intervals and is not relieved by burping, vomiting, passing gas, bowel movements, changing the body position or antacids
  • Pain that radiates to the middle right back or right shoulder blade
  • Fever or jaundice, which speaks for a bile duct inflammation (cholangitis)

Pain from SOD that appears in the absence of gallbladder and without an apparent reason can be similar to pain from the gallbladder, so it is often called phantom gallbladder pain, which suggests that the pain is only in your imagination. However, in most cases, the pain is real and arises from the bile duct.

6. Acute Pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis, which rarely develops after gallbladder removal, can cause dull pain in the upper middle or left abdomen, nausea, vomiting and fever [6].

Other common causes of right upper abdominal pain include muscle strain, trapped wind, peptic ulcer, pleurisy and congestive heart failure with an enlarged liver.

Treatment of Postoperative Pain

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, ketoprofen or rofecoxib, should help in mild to moderate pain [18]. For stronger pain, a doctor can prescribe narcotics, such as morphine [18]. Doctors tend to avoid prescribing morphine if they suspect that the pain may be due to sphincter of Oddi dysfunction because it can worsen the pain [18].

What to do if you still have pain months after gallbladder removal?

Pain that persists for months or years after the surgery is not normal, especially if it is associated with nausea, vomiting, fever or jaundice. In order to find the cause, you can discuss with your doctor about investigations, such as:

  • Classical abdominal ultrasound
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • A type of magnetic resonance imaging called MRCP
  • An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
  • Laparoscopic investigation of the abdomen
  • References

      1. Wilhelmi BJ, Widened and Hypertrophic Scar Healing, Presentation  Emedicine
      2. Abdominal Pain from Laparoscopic Surgery  AbdoMend
      3. Laparoscopic Gallbladder Removal (Cholecystectomy) Patient Information from SAGES
      4. Girometti R et al, 2010, Post-cholecystectomy syndrome: spectrum of biliary findings at magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography  PubMed Central
      5. Duca S et al, 2003, Laparoscopic cholecystectomy: incidents and complications. A retrospective analysis of 9542 consecutive laparoscopic operations  PubMed Central
      6. Jensen SW, Postcholecystectomy syndrome, overview  Emedicine
      7. Hyvärinen H et al, Intestinal adhesions: an overlooked cause of the postcholecystectomy syndrome  PubMed
      8. Okoro N et al, 2008, Ursodeoxycholic acid treatment for patients with postcholecystectomy pain and bile microlithiasis  PubMed
      9. Okoron N et al, 2008, Ursodeoxycholic acid treatment for patients with postcholecystectomy pain and bile microlithiasis  PubMed
      10. Otto S Lin, The Association between Cholecystectomy and Gastroesophageal Reflux Symptoms: A Prospective Controlled Study  PubMed Central
      11. Gupta R et al, 2014, Evaluation of gastroesophageal reflux after laparoscopic cholecystectomy using combined impedance-pH monitoring  PubMed
      12. Ahmad BN et al, 2003, Duodenogastric reflux, an important cause of post-cholecystectomy symptoms  MedIND
      13. Kalima T et al, 1981, Bile reflux after cholecystectomy  PubMed
      14. Chen H et al, 2010, Rabeprazole combined with hydrotalcite is effective for patients with bile reflux gastritis after cholecystectomy  PubMed Central
      15. Villanueva MSS, Laparoscopic Adhesiolysis,  Emedicine
      16. Brugge WR, Bile Duct Strictures Treatment & Management  Emedicine
      17. Rome II diagnostic criteria for functional gastrointestinal disorders
      18. Bisgaard T, 2006, Analgesic Treatment after Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy: A Critical Assessment of the Evidence  Anesthesiology

43 Responses to Pain After Gallbladder Removal Surgery

  1. im newman says:

    Hi all,have had surgery a few days ago,gallbladder removed.If anyone should avoid pain,stop eating greasy and fatty foods,no caffein.Eat healthy,i also try at home none medication,but only sleep on my back.Dull pain accure at right side no probs furthure,only problem is my uvulu got bigger and bigger cause the immune system failure.Also kept in mine that our health comes first than the rest.

  2. Sharon Hallett says:

    I had my gallbladder laparoscopically removed on Nov 8. I’m in discomfort which is expected but yesterday I noticed a lump under my right lower rib cage accompanied with pain, like it’s swollen. I woke up this morning and it feels like I cracked a rib and it hurts to take a big breath in. Has anyone experienced this? I went out yesterday but maybe I overdid it, perhaps?

  3. marie liddick says:

    I got my gallbladder taken out last December 2016, and I am still having pain in my right side. They put a scope down my throat and looked around and said everything is fine but the pain is always there and if I eat anything with any fat at all the pain is so bad I cry . I don’t know how to make it stop I have tried every pill there is I swear its frustrating

  4. claire smith says:

    I had my gallbladder removed roughly 8 yrs ago. I have had the odd flare up over the years but have found certain foods make me rush to the toilet within 10 mins of eating them. Certain foods cause a lot of burping and in past 6 weeks all my symptoms returned. I’m now back to cutting out fatty foods again to see if this helps.

  5. Marie Walker says:

    My 61 year old father had his gallbladder removed Oct. 12 2017 (laparoscopic)
    first couple of days he seemed fine(probably over did it physically) Then the gas pain started-He also had nausea and vomiting and his main incision bled, so I took him to the ER. They gave him fluids and he was fine. Then came the sharp piercing pain on his right side(Surgeon warned him of this pain) The only relief is when he is standing bent over his recliner.
    It is SO hard to watch him be in such pain. I have called his surgeon’s nurse several times and was told to make sure he is walking(He is!) and that Gas X and a stool softener would help.

    Just gave him Gas X and he is being stubborn about the stool softener-
    Any advice?

  6. cory says:

    It is good to hear that we are not alone in post operative symptoms and to know possible outcomes. However, it would be more helpful it people returned and reported their outcome. Even a resolved on it’s own is helpful.

  7. Trev says:

    Had gallbladder removal, and hernia fixed around my belly button, nearly a year gone by now, and still problems, swelling where the gallbladder was, it feels very uneasy, a nigglin pain, not sharp etc, a little like a burning pain, feels like something heavy holding me down on the right hand side,
    as soon as I have eaten its off to the toilet within one hour, passing urine seems to stop it a bit, been to see the specialist, and they want to do colonoscopy again, had this 18 months ago, and they found polyps, which they cut away, not cancer thank goodness, but he wants to check this out first, before referring me back to surgeon which did gallbladder op, thinks it might be bile ducts, so although I do not regret having the op, as they found a massive stone blocking the gallbladder, and it could have burst, was hoping by now, things would start to be getting better!

    • Suzanne says:

      I am experiencing the same pain and restroom symptoms you are describing. I am 4 weeks post op. I haven’t seen my doctor about my complaints as I wanted to do a little research myself first in case it was normal. Have you had an answers so far regarding your bile ducts? TIA
      I think I should make an appointment to see my surgeon.

      • Trev says:

        They are insisting on doing a colonoscopy first to rule out any problem in that area on 20 November, not looking forward to that, and only if that is all okay, will they start investigations around where the gallbladder was.

  8. Noel M Puentes says:

    I had my gallbladder removed Sept. 13th. Pain and discomfort was already fading away this past weekend. Yesterday, I took a nap on my right side and woke up to a new, dull pain just to the right of my bellybutton. Today, the pain has increased and it hurts to move around the house. I have tried to calm the pain with the Tylenol 4 I was prescribed after surgery and have been trying to manage the pain with ice packs. The pain is still pretty sharp, the meds and the ice only help temporarily.

  9. Pamela says:

    I had laparoscopic gallbladder removel sept 20. 2017. Today being the next day i have spasm like feeling from trying to sit up or adjust myself on the right lower side. I am also having a hard time going pee. When i was in the hospital i could go with a bit of pushing but now home and not on iv fluids i am having a hard time. Anyone else with these problems? Any advice would be great. I am freaking out first surgery and its not going great.

    • Jan Modric says:

      Having some pain in the upper abdomen or shoulder blades for few days after surgery can be normal. If despite drinking enough (as usually) you cannot urinate even a small bit or if pain gets worse, you need to go to a doctor immediately.

  10. Nikki says:

    Hi, I am 32 years old I had gallbladder surgery 6 days ago. Badly sick after wakeup and in pain too. Some time very sharp pain goes in my Right stomach to back shoulder Since yesterday I have noticed when I eat the food stuck upper abdominal and sarp pain. Feels like burps coming and until burps not come out does get relief and food goes embarrassing ?. As I am proper rest and no fat food.
    Stomach get so big because gas I really feel very ? uncomfortable.

    • Jan Modric says:

      You may still have some gas in the abdomen that has left from the surgery. To decrease gas from food, you can try a low-FODMAP diet (search online), in which you avoid milk, fructose, honey and beans…

  11. Devinder S Thakur says:

    I am 47 years of age under gone for laparoscopy gall bladder surgery on 25.08.2017. I have acute pain last night under right rib and also problem in creating. Can you tell me the reason and remedial measures.

    • Jan Modric says:

      For acute pain after surgery it is maybe the best if you go back to the doctor who can check if there is any complication, such as a gallstone in the bile duct or bile leakage.

  12. Latoya says:

    I just got my gall bladder out on Thursday August 31 of 2017. I didn’t really feel to much pain the first day because I was doped up from medication. As soon as I thought I was getting better this morning was the worst pain ever. I literally thought I was dying. My husband ran me to the ER and I was immediately seen. The blood work came back as no infection and the cat scan came back with no problems. They said that I had trapped gas in my stomache. This is the worst pain ever. My stomach cramps up. The only thing that’s keeping me going is walking around the house, and drinking hot tea, and ginger candy. On top of tordol and gax x and pecid ac. I can’t sleep. Every time I lay down here come the cramping and nausea. It’s so frustrating. I just can’t wait until it’s all over. They say some people heal different than others so it might take a few days for the gas to disappear or longer. I just pray it doesn’t last long. I’ve never wanted to fort so bad… lol

    • Shanna says:

      I had my gallbladder removed on the 15th of August I went home same day of surgery and was doing wonderful and about 3:00 pm on the 18th I stood up and felt nauseous and started sweating and was in the worst pain I have ever felt in my life I barely could walk my husband had to put me in the car I got to my doctor’s office and they called an ambulance (I called the emergency number on my discharge papers and they told me to come to the clinic) well after having a CT done they finally found the problem I was leaking bile into my body and was being poisoned. The next day they put a stint in and stretched my ducts bc he ended up putting the stint in my pancreas instead of in my bile duct. After staying a 5 days in the hospital it seemed like the pain was not getting much better so we have another CT done and it showed I was big time constipated ( Dr said probably from being put to sleep bc apparently my intestines didn’t wake up) so they get me to having BM’s and 2 days later I finally get to go home. A week later they removed the misplaced stint. But as of right now I hurt so bad. I stay nauseous. I have night sweats and chills and excruciating pain my incisions from the gallbladder surgery hurt so bad and they are healed up it has just been a horrible experience for me. And I’m scared to death to say anything because I really don’t want another surgery! But I do go for hopefully my final CT Thursday so I guess it will tell us what is going on if anything at all.

  13. David says:

    I had my GB out 4 days ago. Hiccups for 36 hours is now behind me, I hope. Clinic doc gave me some pills to relax the diaphragm and I finally got some sleep. Feeling better, but still lousy. Can’t believe I was talked into this. Now sharp pain under right ribs is constant. Can’t deep breathe without pain. Recovery otherwise is proceeding, but feels like you do when you have the flu. And they made it sound so easy and painless….

  14. Lesley says:

    I’m 17 and had my gallbladder out about a month ago, I can’t lay on my right side without heartburn or feeling like I’m about to vomit. Any advice

    • Jan Modric says:

      A newly-appearing heartburn and nausea after gallbladder removal can be due to bile reflux, for example. You may want to discuss with a doctor what would be the best treatment for you.

  15. Laura says:

    I had my gallbladder removed laparoscopically a week ago, everything seems to be fine apart from a stitch like feeling where I used to get gallbladder pain, right hand side. Is this normal?

    • Jan Modric says:

      A stitch-like feeling may be from the gas insufflated into the abdomen during surgery. This usually goes away in few days, but it may stay for a bit longer. If it persists or worsens, you may want to contact the surgeon.

  16. NORA says:

    Hi I had my laparoscopic cholecystectomy surgery keyholes on 27th Aug 2017, my naval incision and my upper abdomen incision is OK, no complications and wound heals nicely bug my right part is still pain even though the incision is healing and the scars are drying, I still feel discomfort around the area of incision, outside the area. Whenever I bend on my right I could feel the sensation of poking. Not much of pain but still I could feel the pain. I am wondering if the pain associated with muscle or complication. Other then that I don’t have any of the symptoms, nausea, jaundice or diarrhea. Please help me, I am just feel discomfort and stress.

    • Jan Modric says:

      The pain from a surgical wound can persist for few weeks. The problem would be if the pain would worsen or if there would be any discharge from it.

      • NORA says:

        Hi Jan. Tks for the advice. BTW, my pain is not frequently but it is on and off. I feel only when I bend on my right or down. I can breathe easily, I can put my arm up. It is not that intense but I could feel that sensation poking. I heard from my friends who had gone thru this surgery, they told me it could be muscle tension. I am just curious about the pain I feel only around the right incision where the surgeon took out my gallbladder. I have work to do and it is dealing with physical. Doctor told me it is OK after 2 weeks and I could do normal activity. The inside of body will heal during 2 weeks and up to 3 weeks. Please advice me more what is it and what shall I do Base on experience from those who experienced it before. I hate to go back to doctor when the only answer I got is nothing serious.

        • Jan Modric says:

          For me, from here, it is impossible to differ between an expected surgical wound pain or pain from a complication within two days of surgery.

          For few days after surgery, some gas can be still in the abdominal cavity, and this might cause a poking sensation.

          It is a delicate question, so I suggest you to use your best intuition and decide to visit a doctor or not. A surgeon would likely better explain the pain as I can.

  17. Lil says:

    I had mine out on 22nd august 17. Can’t take deep breaths pain is always there. If I cough it hurts and if I move. I’m still sleeping sitting up can’t lay on left or right side. Pain killers don’t help at all can only eat small amounts of food.
    Also noticed my morning urine is very concentrate orange. Dark. I’ve had enough already and want to get back to normal living can walk but not far walking up the stairs I’m breathless wishing I never had it out anyone have any solutions or dealt with this and sorted it. I know it only been a week but I have 4 kids to look after.

    • Jan Modric says:

      Lil, dark urine after gallbladder urine is not normal and it could be due to bilirubin entering urine after blockage of the bile duct by a small gallstone. Please, go to a doctor as soon as possible.

    • Shanna says:

      I had that too after my surgery and I went and got my medical records Friday and come to find out the bottom section of my lungs were collapsed and the doctors didn’t even tell me! But I googled it and it says it is a common thing after surgery. I also have pluresy in lungs and chest. But you’d think they’d tell you if your freakin lungs were parcely collapsed ya know but it’s been almost 4 weeks since I had my surgery and it is getting better yawning deep breaths coughing still hurt some and I get winded walking some but not as bad as I have been.

  18. ANGELA says:

    HI Jovan here is the thing: You have to give it a whole year for things to improve I had my surgery 11 months ago .I still have some discomfort .The healing process is different for. Everybody for sone might take 2 weeks from others more,but it does get better your whole body has to adjust to this huge change and is not as simple as simple as the surgeons lead you to believe just give urself time to heal it does get better .Many blessings and good luck.

  19. Jóvan says:

    good evening Id like to know if anyone can give me advice.Im 20 years of age and one the first of March 2017 I had my Gall bladder removed. But since after the surgery I have been having pains on the right side of the cut under my rib case. and 3 hours after my surgery I told my doctor about it and he said its normal. When i went for my check up a week after the surgery i told him about the pain i still had and he said its normal. its been 4 months now and yet i still have this pain i cant sit or lay right when i turn in my sleep the pain wakes me up because its so sore… i cant breathe deep breaths because it hurts. walking is ok and i cant run due to the pain over the past week pain has gotten worse and its so sore that it hurts when im walking even. please can someone tell me their opinion about whats wrong and how do i go about it?

    • Jan Modric says:

      Pain under the ribs lasting for few days after gallbladder surgery is common and normal, but pain lasting for 4 months is not. Pain that obviously changes with body position is very likely from some physical problem, for example, adhesions or something other pulling the abdominal organs. I strongly encourage you to go back to the doctor and insist in further investigations.

    • Lisa says:

      I have the same thing.
      The pain is so intense and i can not move without setting the pain off. If i raise my right arm above my head it sets it off. I cant not breathe properly because of the pain. My surgery was in 2013 and still no answers. I have had many tests with no luck.
      Good luck and i hope you find some answers.

      • Lucy says:

        I was in constant pain for 14 years due to my gal bladder before they took it out. And it has been the best thing they’ve done. My days of morphine and nose tubes are over I hope. Anyway, long story short, my gal bladder was septic and stuck onto my liver with all adhesions on it and I didn’t know what adhedsions were till I googled them… you can get them after sergerys…exept in my case. But sounds similar catchy pain I use to get and I could hardly breath. And the most interesting thing is that they don’t show up on any test/or scan…
        Hope I helped.

    • Shania Jiron says:

      Have you figured out what was wrong? I currently had surgery on the 16th of August and Its a week later and the pain is more and more intense. Im so uncomfy, I have 2 babies and I cant lift them or bend over without setting off the worst pain under my right breast.

    • Jess says:

      I had my gall bladder removed a little over a month ago and recently started having sharp pains under my right rib cage area and hurts to take deep and normal breaths times as well. Not sure if I’m still healing but it’s even painful to walk and move when it’s acting up. So frustrating.

      • Beth says:

        Jess, I just had mine removed this past Monday and having that kind of pain in the same area. It’s worse by the day and making me crazy! Do you know what yours is from?

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