Pain from the incisions is normal. It will vary from day to day and with activity level, but should gradually decrease over time. Mild esophageal pain is also common and can feel like heartburn. It has many causes, but the most common reasons are surgical swelling/healing, spasm and distention from overeating or rapid eating. Decrease your esophageal pain by following the diet recommendations and avoiding very cold liquids if they seem to be troubling you.
If you have had a laparoscopic surgery, you may also have aches in your shoulders and neck, particularly on the left side. This is due to the carbon dioxide that was placed inside your abdomen during the surgery. This is harmless, and the air will disappear within a few days. You may also notice some small air bubbles under the skin of your abdomen or chest that crackle when pushed on. This is also normal and will resolve itself in a few days. The shoulder pain itself can last a few weeks in some patients and responds best to non-narcotic pain medication (liquid/crushed/chewable acetaminophen or ibuprofen) and heating pads.
You may be given a prescription for pain medication (usually a narcotic such as oxycodone, Percocet®, Vicodin® or Dilaudid) upon leaving the hospital. Usually this is in liquid form for your convenience, but due to various and occasional regional pharmacy shortages, pills may be required. As with all pills, please crush before taking until your diet is sufficiently advanced (usually two to four weeks).
Type of Pain Medication:
Narcotics. They are good pain relievers but often cause constipation. Use bulk fiber products, prune juice or milk of magnesia as necessary for constipation. Narcotic pain medications affect your ability to drive and operate machinery safely. Do not drive or operate machinery when taking narcotics. Do not take with alcohol.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS). Ibuprofen (Advil® and Motrin®), and naproxen (Aleve®) are some examples of NSAIDS. These cause no effect on mental capabilities, but can cause stomach upset or bleeding if taken continuously.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol®). This has no effect on mental capabilities, but can cause liver damage if taken more frequently than every four hours. A reasonable strategy is to use acetaminophen or NSAIDS for minor pain and use narcotics only for major pain.
This information has been approved by Emily Speer, MD (October 2017).