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What Should I Expect From Laparoscopic Recovery?

Small incisions are necessary for the insertion of small instruments and carbon dioxide gas in laparoscopic surgery.
Recovery from laparoscopic surgery is typically faster than traditional surgery, but plenty of rest is still needed.
Pain around the incision site is common during laparoscopy recovery.
Bruising is common during laparoscopic recovery.
Anesthesia is well known for causing nausea and vomiting.
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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2014
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Laparoscopic recovery is typically shorter than traditional surgery recovery. In the surgery, surgeons will insert a special camera and equipment into the patient through a series of small incisions. The benefits to this type of surgery include a much lower risk of infection and a faster recovery time. Other things to expect from laparoscopic recovery include excess gas, localized pain, nausea and bruising. Almost all laparoscopic surgeries are completed in an outpatient setting, with overnight stays being a rare occasion.

In order to allow for the insertion of the camera and surgical instruments, carbon dioxide gas is pumped into the body during surgery. This process creates space between the muscles and the organs, so that the surgeon can have a clear view of the area being operated on. After the surgery, the body absorbs the carbon dioxide harmlessly and expels it through the skin and possibly the intestines by passing gas. An increase in passing gas and related pain may therefore be experienced by the patient.

Pain at the surgical site can be a very alarming part of laparoscopic recovery, but this is usually pain that results from the CO2 that was pumped into the body for the surgery. If you had abdominal surgery, the gas may drift up to the shoulder area and collect there, causing pain. Relieve the pain by applying moist heat packs and taking over-the-counter pain medication. Restricting movement will also help. In time, the gas will exit the body.

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Many people do not react well to anesthesia. Nausea, vomiting, headaches and jaw tension may result if you don't handle anesthesia well. Although some hospitals may provide medication to relieve these symptoms, most encourage patients to wait and allow the body to adjust naturally. On occasion, people have reported recurring nightmares after surgery and some have difficulty falling asleep. If this is an ongoing or serious problem, talk to your doctor.

Deep purple bruises can be common when recovering from laparoscopic surgery. Although the incisions were small, the muscles were cut, pulled and pushed during the surgery. Abdominal surgery often causes extensive bruising along the hip bones, even if the surgery was higher up the abdomen.

It is very common to feel exhausted for the first six to 10 days after surgery. Although the laparoscopic recovery period is faster, the body still needs time to heal from the effects of surgery. You should balance rest so your body can recover with gradual movement so you can get your body back to normal. Short walks, going up and down stairs and moving your upper body all stimulates blood flow and will help your body to heal.

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anon948861
Post 47

I posted about laparoscopic surgery a few minutes ago, then I registered. (I know backward, huh?) Any way, would love to hear from you and any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! --Susiej

anon947649
Post 46

The thread is very helpful. I am two weeks into my lap for endometriosis and three cysts. One was hemorraghic. I also had fibroids and a DNC. I am still so sore and overly nauseated. Has anyone else experienced this before? I guess I should have rested more before going back to work. I returned to work a week after the lap. That's what I get I've learned my lesson.

anon942883
Post 45

I am three weeks post laparoscopic umbilical hernia repair and I still cannot sleep in my bed due to pain when I try to roll over onto my side! I am also still quite bloated and I am hoping my stomach returns to normal size soon. This has been a difficult surgery to get past. Have not been able to return to work yet.

anon934705
Post 44

I was diagnosed with appendicitis. I had a lap the next morning where they discovered my appendix had already burst and a cyst had formed over the area. After surgery, I was constantly throwing up, and barely sleeping even though I was very tired. I have since healed but have no stamina for anything. It sounds ridiculous but is this still to do with the operation or maybe a depression caused by it?

anon929717
Post 43

I am 11 days post op after a laparoscopic surgery and I'm still not feeling well. I'm not sleeping well and I have nightmares often. My whole body aches all over and I'm tired.

anon926050
Post 41

I am thankful I found this page. I am at day 5 after an emergency laparoscopic appendectomy. At discharge time the next morning, my surgeon told me that I probably wouldn't need pain medication but did provide a script just in case. In addition, he told me that I could drive within a day or so of surgery as long as I didn't use the narcotic prescription. Driving has been the least of my concerns. I have tremendous pain unless I am pretty still, my digestive system is messed up and I still have not had a bowel movement. I cannot sleep in any position except on my back which is a real problem because I begin to wheeze. Until I read this, I felt as though I had new problems on top of the appendicitis. I also worried about the fact that nothing about my recovery was as the surgeon described. Thank you all for sharing your stories which have made me feel better mentally even though the physical pain continues.

anon351084
Post 40

Yes, agreed. This and a few other forums told me more than all the medical staff put together! I was still in terrible pain three weeks on, very bloated and heavy feeling in the chest as well as not being able to wear my normal clothes. I read one should drink crushed raw ginger in hot water and take charcoal tablets and I'm pleased to report it worked for me! Within 48 hours, the horrible bloated feeling and pain in my chest had gone. Yippee! So thought I'd share. I've been to Holland and Barrett and re- stocked and will continue taking the charcoal tablets now.

My bruising was also horrific 10 days on and I then started bleeding from the tummy button incision. I had to go to A and E and it turned out a clot had formed inside and the wound hadn't healed properly so I had to the have it packed each day, which was not great on top of everything else. The past week the bruising has finally faded to a pale yellow, but just in the last day it's started going black again. Any ideas anyone? Should I be worried?

anon349910
Post 38

I had laparoscopic surgery due to cysts wrapped around my fallopian tube. All of you complaining of the shoulder pain - I was informed it's normal due to the gas they fill you with during the surgery and it should go away. The gas pain and pain in general probably depends on what you had removed. I felt the shoulder pain a lot too, but it's gone now after five days post op. I just have some sore abdominal muscles and of course soreness where they performed the removal.

I was told to do light walking around my property and move around. For those of you afraid of anesthesia: I was also afraid due to prior experience of horrible post nausea with previous surgery. Talk to your anesthesiologist and let them know. Mine did a wonderful job and I had no post surgery nausea. Wishing you all the best with your recoveries!

anon345201
Post 37

I am one day postop and I must say that my postop instructions told me all about the pain associated with the gas bubbles. I was well prepared. I will also say that I feel for all of you who have been having longer than anticipated pain, etc.

I have been having shoulder pain, but have been able to ignore it without more than advil and my laparoscopy incisions are pain free unless I bump them.

I will pray for you all. There is nothing worse than being in pain and not knowing why. I swear, male doctors have no idea when they say they will reveal the results in two weeks at your first postop visit. I mean, really? Are you married? What woman would wait that long without too much anxiety and cost to her mental health? Hang in there and get a second opinion.

anon343629
Post 36

I had my ovaries and tubes removed in July 2013 because there is a history of ovarian cancer in my family. I'm 54, very fit and seven years post-menopause which makes me a perfect candidate. Despite that, I've had complications.

I was experiencing soreness in my upper thighs for over a week, which my doctor determined was due to the internal swelling pressuring my nerves causing pain and numbness -- not blood clots as I suspected.

Next, I developed stabbing pains on the left side of my chest due to a viral lung infection. This was likely brought on by shallow breathing. I was prescribed medication to relieve the pain, which will allow me to breathe more deeply and air out the lungs.

Though things have not gone as smoothly as expected, I'm thankful and relieved that my worries of ovarian cancer are gone.

anon343087
Post 35

I am 49 years old and five days post laparoscopic surgery form at first a septated cystic mass on both ovaries. I had a hysterectomy about 15 years ago. I couldn't believe the ultrasound when they said I still had both ovaries. I was told that I had one left at my request before hysterectomy. But during the surgery, it was found that I had to have the right ovary and mass removed and that the other wasn't an ovary, but a mass of tissue from adhesions. The surgery took longer than anticipated due to removal of all the adhesions. The gas pain afterwards was the worst I had ever felt. I had it in both shoulders and for two nights, had to sleep sitting up -- if you can say I slept. I could hardly breathe and that scared me. I was in so much pain!

I was told to call the doctor if the pain medication wasn't helping. I was taking vicodin 5/500 1 q 4 hours. I called the doctor to complain that the medication wasn't helping and was told to take two every four to six hours. That brought the pain down to a tolerable level 6 on the pain scale.

Moving my bowels has been painful. My whole left side is completely bruised and hard. I have been able to decrease my pain medication to one every six hours and the gas pain finally gone. Hooray. I am still worried about the consequences because prior to the surgery, I was being seen by a GI doctor for abdominal swelling, vomiting and diarrhea for about two months. An endoscopic procedure found a few problems. I am hoping that all of this will be the answer to why I have been so sick. I have missed so much time from work that they are no longer understanding and it has been really hard.

It’s just knowing that you are sick. I’ve been to the ER three times for dehydration, and I drink all day long. Also, it was frustrating being in pain and GI doctor would not treat my pain. I felt so alone and like I was just being ignored for my symptoms and problems. I just want to be myself again.

So everyone, hang in there and just remember there are others out there like us who have had the same problems. It feels good to read these notes to help put together what our problems could be. By the way, a female doctor, after my third ER visit, stated the problem with the mass on my ovary, and said I really needed to get it looked at immediately to be evaluated because they may have been looking at the wrong end with my problems. All those times I was never told about it.

So everyone, just don't give up and listen to your body and fight for an answer. I’m still in there fighting myself. I wish all of you the best.

anon342970
Post 34

I had an appendectomy about two weeks ago and although I felt better a few days ago, I now have pains in my ribs on my right hand side. Did anybody else experience this and is there anything I can do to ease the pain?

anon337093
Post 33

I had laparoscopy to remove my ovarian cyst and fallopian tubes four days ago. For the first two days post op, I had sharp pain in my shoulder, abdominal pain, and some sort of chest tightening. I was told they're normal because of the gas that was injected in my abdomen. The hydrocodone helped with my shoulder pain.

I am still in the process of recovering. I still have a lot of gas and stomach discomfort right now and I still move as slow as turtle! Oh, and I feel pressure in my bladder as well, and I feel the pressure just right after urinating.

anon334357
Post 32

I had laparoscopic surgery to remove a polyp from my ovaries and three fibroids. I am six days past surgery. The shoulder chest and neck pain were the worst, still tired. Pain is not there just soar now. Each day does get better. Nothing helped the shoulder pain except ice and resting sitting up for me worked the best. Keep resting and listen to your body. After reading others was so helpful to know my symptoms were normal. Everyone reacts differently.

anon333020
Post 31

I am age 40, weigh 120 pounds and am very active. I am four months post-op of a laparoscopic removal of fatty mass from my upper intestine, and am experiencing severe pain in the upper left-side of my abdomen and along my lower ribcage. The pain is worse after I've been sitting for long periods of time.

Nothing was seen on a recent CT scan (original tumor however was not clearly seen on pre-op scan either). I was told there could be another tumor, but since the scan was normal, was told to follow-up with PCP. My primary doc is at a loss. Could I still be experiencing pain from the surgery?

anon327312
Post 30

I am a week from having a lap appendectomy and I also agree that nothing is said about the gas that is pumped inside you at the time of the operation. I am still very uncomfortable all over my torso and sometimes in pain. When I complained of the pain after the op I was given a CT scan, which came back clear. Even at that time I wasn't told it could be the gas that was put inside me. People should definitely be told that this is going to happen during surgery and what to expect afterward.

anon326134
Post 29

I had a laparoscopy done in early February and I went back to work on the third week. In early March, I experienced dizziness and poor memory. I am still having the same problem; it comes and goes. It's not a nice feeling and it is affecting my performance at work. Can somebody advise if the surgery might affect me this way?

anon324613
Post 28

I also had lap surgery to remove a large cyst on my ovary that was stuck to my bowel, and both ovaries and tubes were removed, as I am 70 and don't need them. I feel great having that cyst out.

The gas was not that bad, as my arthritis is way worse, and knowing the shoulder pain was only temporary helped. I am now on my sixth day and every day is better. I never really felt any pain from the four incisions at all - they don't look nice, but feel fine. So glad it's over and it is so much better than I expected. I'm more tired than usual, but no pain! Can't wear underwear yet, but my Hawaiian muumuu is just perfect for that.

anon324127
Post 27

My name is Tanya and I am 10 days post gall bladder removal. I am still experiencing pain in my stomach where they moved the organs around to get to the gall bladder. I had to stay in the hospital for a week because I had an ERCP done as well. The gall bladder was removed but a bunch of sludge was still blocking the bile duct. When they did the first ERCP, they nicked the cystic duct so I had to go back for another ERCP to get a stent put in (to help drain the bile out of my system). I am hoping the bruising will go away soon and the pain will continue to subside.

anon319857
Post 26

There is nothing you can do about O2 pain after the fact. One would have to discus options with the surgeon prior to surgery. Unfortunately, I did not!

anon315380
Post 25

I did have laparoscopic surgery for ovarian cysts. My doctor has done thousands of these surgeries. I'm 35 and weigh 100 pounds.

I did a naturopathic approach prior to surgery to totally prepped my body. After the surgery, I walked the length of my living room about thirty times. I've been doing that every day. Once I came home after the surgery and I felt O.K., I only took only one pain killer, so far and I really did not even need it, but the nurse insisted. While in short stay, I took one oxycodone. Wow. That stuff is just way too much for me. I could not stand the feeling of it!

My doctor wanted me to fill a prescription for Vicodin, which I did, but I have not taken any yet. My doctor basically said to me everyone is different. Some people are fine in 3 days, some in two weeks, others in a couple of months.

I did have a heck of a sore throat from the anesthesiologist not using the smallest tube. I've had surgery before (four times) and never had a sore throat like this. Anyhow, that is getting much better today. Besides that, I feel fine -- maybe a little tired.

anon315121
Post 24

I'm post op day 4. I had a lap appendectomy and still have severe pain in my right shoulder and difficulty breathing. Does anyone know how long this will last? Believe it or not, it's worse than the surgical pain!

anon310503
Post 23

I just got home from a left laparascopic adrenalectomy. No one even mentioned the CO2 before the operation and it is proving to be the worst part of the procedure. I had to sleep in a chair last night as I would have unbearable pains throughout my entire chest/abdomen if I lay down. I can't lie down tonight because of terrible right shoulder pains when I do. Heat helps a lot and I only fell asleep in my chair last night after the nurse gave me a hot blanket.

This pain is Vicodin-proof and is driving me nuts. The incisions and general area of surgery are relatively painless; it's the gas and distention it caused that is the most painful. I've had several surgeries and see no benefit, so far, to a laparascopic procedure. Ask about the use of gas and dealing with it before the operation. It's a very unpleasant surprise.

anon307989
Post 22

I am day two post op after having lap female sterllisation. I have severe pain in my right shoulder and feel like I have a heavy chest. I hope it goes away soon because I feel fine otherwise.

anon307903
Post 21

I'm 12 days post op of ovarian cyst removal and part ovary removal. I'm still having bouts of sickness, headaches, my jaw hurts and sleeping isn't that great either. I'm still feeling sore since having the surgery. I did not expect it would take this long to recover.

anon306823
Post 20

My 12 year old daughter had a lap cholecystectomy and a lap appendectomy 11 days ago. She is still suffering from severe pain in her upper rib cage and/or upper back about 5 or 6 a.m. every day. Could the pain be caused by the CO2 gas they pumped in her? How long can it take for the body to absorb the gas? Any ideas?

anon306665
Post 19

@Tracey: I read your post about your phobia. I have it too, and didn't know many people had it. Good news though: the docs can you give you these amazing nausea meds before and right after surgery. Just remind them. But it's great. I've had numerous surgeries and never got sick once. Zofran is what they would send you home with. It lasts 12 hours and prevents you from physically throwing up. Either way, there is hope.

You can have surgery now just stay on top of those meds. The doctor will know what to give you before. FYI: I had chemo and it terrified me. Not because of the fact I was really sick, but physically getting sick. I told the doc and nurse about it and they solved that problem.

anon299937
Post 18

I had laparoscopic surgery to remove my left ovarian cyst, left ovary and fallopian tube three days ago.

The doctor gave me some Oxycodone and other pain killers to help with the pain. I am trying to minimize the amount of pain killers consumed.

The day of the surgery was hard because of the stomach pain. Moving around was hard.

On day two, my right shoulder started hurting. I read that sleeping on the right hand side helps, and it did. I also put some heat packs. Eating healthy food helps because going to the bathroom takes away a lot of the gas problems. I drank prune juice.

On day three, I felt a lot better. I'm still getting as much bed rest as possible and stopped the Oxycodone. I also took a shower.

This is day four and I feel a whole lot better, but I am still getting bed rest.

anon294082
Post 17

I am nine months post surgery. I had an anterior bowel resection performed through laparoscopy. I still have abdominal pain and can't wear anything with a tight waistband or a belt. Has anyone else experienced this?

anon281450
Post 16

I recently got a cyst on my left ovary removed through a laparoscopic surgery, and immediately after the surgery when I woke up from the anesthesia I felt fine except for some dull pain in my pelvis area.

The next day I could barely get up, and the pain in my right shoulder had me near tears. I was given intense pain medication after my surgery to use if I experienced severe pain and it helped immensely, as did putting a towel soaked in HOT water on my shoulder. Later the pain eventually spread to my lower neck, but it was more moderate.

Thankfully I did not experience the typical side effects of the pain medicine like nausea, but I did get drowsy.

I would recommend *a lot* of rest, pain killers for the shoulder pain, a modest diet, and ginger ale. Also, sitting rather than lying down is a more comfortable position to be in when experiencing the shoulder pain.

Best of luck to anyone getting the surgery, and a speedy recovery to those who have already.

anon280610
Post 15

I am 12 days in from a laparoscopic surgery to have a couple of cysts removed from my ovaries. I am surprised to report that I still haven't recovered. I still cannot move normally or move my stomach muscles and my mind feels foggy, light headed and I'm having frequent nausea. My doctor is surprised these symptoms still persist. I think some people react differently to anesthesia. I haven't taken any medication in one week so I'm confused. How long is this going to last?

anon273690
Post 14

I just had an emergency laparoscopic appendectomy four days ago. I'm on day five of post op and the first two or three days I didn't know what was going on but after talking to several people, asking questions, calling the surgeon's nurse and just keeping track of my post op symptoms, I now see and know that all my bruising, swelling, exhaustion, weird dreams and heavy chest feelings are normal and it is temporary.

I think the key to a lot of this is to get facts, as many as you can from credible people, e.g., hospitals, doctor's office, even family or friends who have gone through a similar procedure.

I also noticed that my short term memory was clouded and I am assuming that is from the anesthesia still in my system, plus the pain medications given while in the hospital and while at home.

I am going to suggest to my surgeon when I go for my post op in three days that I think it would be extremely helpful to future patients if they were given a list of expectations when recovering from this major procedure.

I hope you all are doing well in your recovery. This surgery makes my sixth major surgery so I know it takes the body a while to get back to feeling normal. I am not expecting to be able to get back bouncing like I use to for at least six months, but I see little bits and pieces of progress each day, which is a start.

anon268734
Post 13

I'm very sorry you all had lots of stress and pain after your operations. I must say I have had two laps now. The first was when I was 26, and I was fine after and moving about on my own.

I just had the second last Wednesday 20 years later and the pain is so bad. It has taken me nearly a week to be out of pain, however my legs are very sore and swollen and throbbing. I am getting worried now as I was put on a drip with no surgical stockings. Does anyone else have this problem? --deb

anon231372
Post 12

I'd like to add that, after a lap appendectomy, the worst pain I experienced was actually in my belly button from the incision that was made there - any attempt to sit up or lie down was excruciating, and for about a week, I needed physical help to do so. I had to sleep on my back for about a month, which got quite unpleasant. Two months on, I still experience intermittent twinges of pain in that area, e.g. if my belt is cinched too tight, if I wear pants with tight waistbands, if I wear high heels for too long or go walking for too long. Sleeping on my left side also causes this pain.

My surgeon was terrible when it came to bedside manner, and provided me with absolutely no helpful information unless I specifically asked, and even then he never explained much. He never told me about the after-effects of the anesthesia and gas, so consequently I was absolutely terrified when I kept throwing up for two days, and when my abdomen got so bloated.

Whoever tells you that an appendectomy is a "minor" procedure and that you'll recover in no time, don't listen to them!

anon213876
Post 11

I've made the mistake of reading all about having an ovary removed laparoscopically. I saw my GYN last week, and he felt a hard mass on my left ovary.

I've had this for a couple of years, my doctor is sending me for an ultrasound, but says for me to just get it taken out no matter what. I'm now scared out of my skin to have it removed surgically.

I have zero tolerance for pain, and have a massive phobia/fear of throwing up, and can't/won't take any pain pills (for fear of it making me nauseated or throw up) of any kind, never have... So if the mass is suspicious for cancer, I guess I'll just live life the best I can until the end. Very sad, Tracey

anon193694
Post 10

This page answered all of my questions. I started to freak-out when I saw the bruising. Thank you so much!

anon159501
Post 9

Thank you so much for the info. I feel so much better knowing my bruising and shoulder pain is normal. Everyone acted like I was nuts about the shoulder pain and that was very frustrating. Like the other readers, I learned more here than the surgeon and nurses told me and/or answered when I questioned. I would like to add that I developed a "seroma" at my left incision. All doing OK.

anon135437
Post 7

i had my left ovary taken out. the day after surgery was more discomfort then pain. everyday things we deal with we use our stomach muscles, and i seem to find out that bag of ice for 30min helps lower the swelling. It also doesn't make it easy for me because I'm pregnant. i only take one Tylenol if i really have to, day by day recovery gets better. i recommend lots of bed rest and help. have a speedy recovery.

anon118318
Post 6

i had my right ovary and fallopian tube removed a week or so ago and a week later the pain has not subsided. My doctor put me on a three-day antibiotic to rule out an infection this week. Today i saw new bruises showed up below my belly button where i am having the most pain. why would bruises appear a week later - anyone experience this?

anon102318
Post 5

yay! an explanation for the shoulder pain. i told the nurses and the doctors about my shoulder pain, but they seemed to think it was unrelated and didn't really address my concerns. it still hurts so much. i wasn't told about all the gas pain i could/would feel.

i feel a bit better knowing what it is. i just hope it goes away soon. it's horribly painful.

anon60789
Post 3

I am four days out from my lap appendectomy and still having shoulder pain and breathing discomfort. This is the worst part of the surgery. My incisions are fine and belly a little sore from all the walking to try and get the gas out.

I am burping and passing gas but pain still there? How long will this last?

anon50304
Post 2

Agreed. No one told me about the post-op bruising or the pain away from the incisions, but it makes sense seeing as how they tore my muscles. Wish they had told me more of what to expect.

anon39605
Post 1

in a few simple paragraphs, this page told me more than my surgeon. In fact the "team" that operated on me seems to be particularly unforthcoming. thanks

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