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Gallstone disease and gallbladder removal

Gallstone disease is one of the most common reasons for patients needing surgery and the source of a great deal of misery.  Fortunately, for the vast majority of patients, gallstone disease can be dealt with safely and fairly easily.

What is Gallstone Disease?

One of the many things your liver does is produce bile. This bile is secreted into your intestine through the bile ducts. In the intestine, it acts to dissolve the fat that we eat that the fat can be absorbed by the intestine.

In between meals, a small muscular valve closes where the bile duct enters the intestine.  The bile that is produced then gets backed up into the gallbladder, which acts as a reservoir, both holding and concentrating the bile.  After a person eats, the presence of food in the stomach and duodenum sets off a signal to the gallbladder which then contracts, adding bile to mix in with the food.

Approximately 20% of people (1 out of 5) form gallstones in their gallbladder. Most stones are made of ...

Swedish to Host Living Kidney Donor Seminar on Saturday, June 8 at First Hill Campus

SEATTLE, June 4, 2013 – A free seminar about living kidney donation, titled ‘Create a Miracle,’ will be held Saturday, June 8 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. in Glaser Auditorium on the Swedish/First Hill campus (747 Broadway, Seattle, WA 98122; first floor).

What To Expect When You Are Going To Have Surgery

If you are reading this, and the thought of having an operation is a little daunting, it may be helpful to arm yourself with some useful information. For most folks, the mere idea of undergoing a surgery can be a stressful and confusing time. Many people are still recovering from the surprise that their condition requires an operation, and are unprepared and overwhelmed with the amount of information they are given in anticipation of the procedure. Below is a brief and simplified summary of some of the things you may be told and are expected to understand. Because every surgery is a little different in regard to indications, expectations, risks, and recovery, the guide below should serve as a road map to help you navigate the process.

Most surgeons use the terms preoperative, perioperative, and postoperative to describe the various stages involved, and we will break these down to make understanding them a little easier.

Preoperative

Everything involved in the preparation for a surgical procedure falls under this category. In some instances, this stage is ...

Are you ready for surgery?

For most folks, the idea of undergoing an operation can be a stressful and confusing time. If the thought of having a surgery is a little daunting, it may be helpful to arm yourself with some useful information.

Before any operation, you should have the opportunity to talk with your surgeon. This consultation should include an explanation of why you need a surgery, what other options are available, and what the surgery and recovery entail. All operations have risks and complications and you should learn about them as part of the decision making process.

It is often necessary to perform certain tests or studies prior to your surgery. These are for your benefit so that your surgeon has as much information about you and your situation as possible. Surgeons do not like surprises.

Make sure to follow your preoperative instructions. This is your side of the bargain after you have decided to have surgery. Following directions about medications, fasting (not eating), and other preparation for an operation is essential to making the day go as smoothly as possible.

Some other tips for the day of your surgery include...

What should you know about pain killers after surgery?

Recovering from major surgery is an active process that typically takes 6 weeks. Surgical pain is normal and expected, but the pain experience may be different for individuals. Since pain can interfere with your ability to participate in activities to prevent complications (coughing, deep breathing, walking), treating pain is critically important for a successful surgical recovery. Many patients are afraid to take prescription narcotics or “pain killers” because they do not want to become “addicted.” However, untreated pain can lead to the development of permanent pain pathways to the brain, which can delay your recovery and possibly even result in chronic pain.

Narcotic use varies among individuals and there is a big difference between drug dependence and addiction. Dependence is when the body has become accustomed to the medication. This can occur anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks after you start taking pain killers regularly, like after surgery. Addiction, however, generally implies that the medication or substance is interfering with your life in some way. You can become dependent on pain killers during your surgical recovery, but with medical management of your withdrawal from these medications, you will avoid addiction. It is important to use your prescription pain killers as directed to avoid overuse. On the other hand, you do not want to avoid using pain killers when you need them to remain comfortable and active. Stopping your pain killers “cold turkey” can be dangerous and it may cause considerable discomfort. The surgical team will work with you to develop a plan to wean you off your pain killers gradually and safely, at a time when you are ready.

The universal goal is to taper as quickly as your physical, mental and emotional status allows. Since there is ....

Is Robotic Surgery Right For You?

In recent years, there has been a surge in the popularity of robotic surgery. This is an exciting new technology that is being actively used by many specialists here at Swedish. In General Surgery, we have been using a minimally invasive approach called laparoscopy for many years. This allows us to use smaller incisions, giving the patient much less pain and a quicker recovery.  Robotic surgery is very similar.

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about robotic surgery:

Are incisions smaller with robotic surgery than with laparoscopy?

No. The incisions are pretty much the same. As a patient, you might not be able to tell much of a difference from the surface.

Do the robotic instruments allow the surgeon to perform a better operation?

Activity after open or laparoscopic abdominal surgery

Every patient who visits my office with a surgical condition has several decisions to make and has a lot of information to absorb and understand.

I typically spend much of our time together describing the condition itself, why I recommend surgery, how I will perform the surgery and any risks involved in the procedure. While this is all critical to anyone’s understanding of their treatment plan, once the decision has been made to proceed with surgery, many patients’ concerns quickly turn to their recovery and what to expect after surgery. Most patients want to know when they can get back to walking, lifting, exercising, and their normal daily routine. While every patient and procedure is different, some generalizations can be made to help you know what to expect.

General abdominal surgery can broadly be separated into two categories: 1) open surgery where a large incision is made through the abdominal wall and 2) laparoscopic (or robotic) surgery where the procedure is preformed through multiple small incisions. Both types of surgery are used for a wide array of surgical problems.

The recovery from these two types can be different. Every patient should ask their surgeon wound care questions, dietary restrictions or signs of possible complications specifically related to their recommended procedure. There will be activity restrictions in the early postoperative period for all surgical procedures.

Many people wonder why we limit activity after ..

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