Laparoscopiccholecystectomy (no, not me)

I’m back in Edinburgh this evening after spending the weekend up with Mum & Dad.

Dad was in hospital with a gallbladder infection back in May. By coincidence, I had planned to be stay with them for my trip Edinburgh trip of 7-9 May, and rent a car for driving back and forth to Edinburgh. When I arrived in Murthly late on the Tuesday evening, Dad was in a pretty bad state; it was handy that I was around to drive him to the doctor the next morning. The blood tests came back later that day, and he was admitted to hospital straight away. A variety of tests and scans indicated an extremely distraight gall bladder. When it became clear that the infection wasn’t immediately life-threatening, the doctors decided it would be best to treat him with antibiotics and wait until the infection had cleared up before operating to remove the organ.

During that time all learned much about what the gall bladder does; how you can live quite happily without it; and how its removal is one of the most common operations in the NHS, with more than 60,000 cholecystectomies performed each year, most of them via keyhole surgery! Which makes it sound easy and fun.


Dad had his operation on Tuesday. Although the surgeons didn’t need to open him all the way up, apparently it was a tricky operation. During keyhole surgery, the abdominal cavity is inflated with CO2 gas to make space for the surgeons to poke around more easily. The gas is partly absorbed by the body, but in some patients it can cause effects that are more painful than the healing wounds themselves. From Wikipedia:

Not all of the CO2 introduced into the abdominal cavity is removed through the incisions during surgery. Gas tends to rise, and when a pocket of CO2 rises in the abdomen, it pushes against the diaphragm (the muscle that separates the abdominal from the thoracic cavities and facilitates breathing), and can exert pressure on the phrenic nerve. This produces a sensation of pain that may extend to the patient’s shoulders.

By coincidence (again) I was across in Scotland this weekend anyway. On Friday I took the train up to Perth and saw Dad in hospital. Mum said he looked much better, but I thought he looked dreadful. A photo wouldn’t have shown it, but a video would have: he was holding himself perfectly still to minimize the pain in his shoulders. He has been better each day, though, and we got him home yesterday afternoon along with a gallon bag of drugs to keep the pain in check. It has been a tough weekend for him, but it will get better soon. I’m glad I was able to be around for a while to help out.

Love you, Dad!