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This article has been written by Rachel based on real life experience but medically reviewed by Doctor Ramlah Tariq FCPS ob/gyn, RMP, MBBS, BSc. to make sure we are providing you with content you can trust.
In this blog post, we hear from Rachel. Rachel has had three keyhole surgeries now in the space of just a few years and one laparotomy (you can read about her recovery from that here).
Rachel tells us all about the real-life recovery from keyhole surgery so you can know what you may expect.
What is keyhole surgery?
keyhole surgery, also called Laparoscopy, is a type of surgical procedure that allows the surgeon to access the abdomen and pelvis using a small incision (hence the name “keyhole”) and his visibility of the organs is maintained with the help of a fibre-optic instrument or a camera. Keyhole, as the name suggests, means that there is a very small incision in the skin.
The benefits of keyhole surgery over open surgery include:
- Less bleeding after the procedure
- Faster recovery time and a shorter stay in hospital
- Less scarring
- Less trauma
- Less pain and discomfort
- Quicker resumption of daily activities
Recovering from Keyhole Surgery | Real-life diary
DAY 1 – Recovery from keyhole surgery
Waking up from anaesthetic is the same really no matter what type of surgery you have had. You feel a bit groggy, confused and very tired. I am usually freezing when I wake up, which is rather normal and as I am told, many patients do feel the same. As a guess, I think they keep the recovery room very cold to stop bacteria breeding (I might be wrong)
You usually aren’t in much pain at this point, as more than likely you would have been given some strong pain relief. I think it comes through the drip in your hand. From my experience, I haven’t woken up in pain, just sleepy and confused.
I usually feel pretty hungry when I wake up because you would have fasted for quite a few hours before your surgery. I had one keyhole surgery at 6 pm once, so had to fast all day and by the time I woke up, I was starving! They prefer to give you small, light meals so you can expect something like toast and tea. I have always taken it, so I’m not sure what happens if you aren’t hungry. They probably wouldn’t be too worried at first but they will keep suggesting it.
I have always been able to get up pretty much straight away when I wake up from surgery, at least once out of recovery and onto the ward. One thing they look for is your ability to do a wee. Usually, a nurse will suggest you have a wee.
Two of my surgeries have included having a urinary catheter but I have had a surgery where I haven’t had one. Lots of people worry about this, but honestly, it’s no bother at all. It doesn’t hurt. You don’t really notice it’s there and when they take it out it feels slightly odd, but not painful. I know everyone has a different experience and that this is something people worry about a lot, however, I feel really strongly it isn’t something to worry about.
Day one and you will usually be able to get out of bed and get dressed, talk, eat food etc. I went home the same day on one keyhole surgery and the next day on the other two. It’s quite common to go home the same day. Personally, I would prefer to go home the same day, as it’s very easy to pick up infections in hospitals and this did happen to me on one occasion so it made my recovery a little more difficult.
Day 2 – keyhole surgery recovery
You really should aim to be resting on the first few days of recovery with slight walk and activity to help your blood circulate better. It improves recovery.
Ideally, you should have someone around on day 2 to help with food, fetching things you need and fluffing your pillows! If this really isn’t possible for you, I do think you would be okay, but it just wouldn’t be ideal.
Once my husband was on his way home to look after me and came down with norovirus all of a sudden on the motorway home. As we all know, it is highly contagious through touch or food, he couldn’t risk infecting me so had to go to a hotel and I had to wait all day for my mum to arrive, and I got by fine. It can be done.
For me, the worst thing about day two is the gas pains. When they do keyhole surgery they pump your stomach up with gas to riause the skin from the organs below and have better visibility. This leads to it being trapped in really strange places, such as your shoulder. For me, it probably is the most painful thing about the whole process. Peppermint tea and moving around as much as you feel up to doing is a medically proved way that helps.
As it is only day 2 the anesthesia will still very much be in your system, it is totally normal to feel very tired. Take it easy! I really recommend saving up as many TV shows as you can to binge on during this time but do not stay glued to the sofa/bed. Stay active and move around for a better recovery.
The next couple of days are pretty similar so I’m going to skip…
Day 5-7 – Recovery from keyhole surgery
By now, in my experience, I have been pretty much up and about. I do want to add here though I am an avid gym-goer and I eat very well and both of these things have a massive impact on your recovery. If you know you have an op coming up I would say to assist you in a faster recovery it’s a good idea to start eating well and doing some light exercise. Many people aren’t as mobile so take it easy and go at your own pace.
By now I would have been walking up to the shops/cafes (near my house) getting up and out of bed in the morning and feeling pretty much back to normal.
But there are two things, you must never do during the first 6 weeks of the surgery no matter how energized/ normal, you feel:
- Heavy lifting
- Stomach exercises like situps.
The only thing I usually feel is still a bit confused at this point and quite emotional. I remember leaving my house for a walk to get some fresh air at about this point in my recovery once and I couldn’t for the life of me decide if I should go left or right out of my house. So I stood outside the front of my house and just cried! Eventually, I pulled myself together and took a left.
That’s pretty much it, as you can gather my recoveries have been quite straight forward and without complication. Take it easy and listen to your body and accept any help offered to you!
This is a helpful article regarding your queries and recovery before and after a keyhole surgery by certified doctors. I would recommend that it is best if you do not google anything and stay positive while you are at it.
We chat to Rachel about keyhole surgery
Q. What was the reason you had keyhole surgery?
A. I’ve had keyhole surgery 3 times now, so I’m quite experienced in the whole process! The first time I was 27 and struggling to get pregnant. I had a large cyst on one of my ovaries, so they thought this was causing the problems.
They planned to remove it via keyhole surgery and also do a lap and dye test, which is where they flush fluid through your system and see if anything is blocked and the egg is struggling to get down or sperm to get up. Through laparoscopy, they try to look for endometriosis, infections, adhesions, or any abnormality. Basically, they try to find out the cause of infertility.
My second keyhole surgery was for total abdominal hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy as I had cancerous cells on everything but my cervix so had to have everything taken out.
Before and after this surgery I kept a video diary of how I was feeling in the hope it might help someone. You can watch it here:
My third keyhole surgery was for a belly button hernia which came about during my pregnancy as I had quite bad diastasis recti (ab separation) so everything kind of popped out.
Once I knew I wouldn’t have another pregnancy I decided it was something I wanted to get fixed.
So that makes it three keyhole surgeries in the space of just four years! I’m hoping that’s all I will have now, it’s tough for your body to go through but it has left me with lots of experience and knowledge and if I can share that and help other women through their nerves and anxiety about the surgery then it makes it more worthwhile.
Q. How did you feel when you found out you would need surgery?
A. To be honest, I’ve never been that worried about the surgery. You do have to sign a form that basically says you understand there is a chance of death during the surgery so I guess that is always at the back of your mind. Its so, so slim though and as long as you are fit and healthy then there’s really no reason to worry.
Q. What are your top tips for dealing with surgery?
A. I try not to think about what is happening too much. DO NOT GOOGLE! Just listen to people that may have had a fairly easy time of it (like this blog!), you’ll only see the worst stuff if you go searching for it.
Most of the time I have taken myself into the hospital with a book and just got on with it. I try to plan something after the surgery (as long as I am well…and not dead, haha) to look forward to.
I pack some nice snacks in my hospital bag, download something to watch on my phone or bring a book I am really enjoying and you can sort of just see it as a time to rest.
I think after every surgery I have had I booked the hairdressers. This is so I have something to look forward to but also I have been off work for a week or so after so I have time to sit there for 5 hours and have highlights! I really recommend doing something like this.
Q. What did you pack for hospital?
A. I will write a list for this! Firstly dont pack too much as the staff have to carry it around and people can bring you things. Also, nothing of any value as it gets left by your bed on the ward until you get there.
- Peppermint tea bags (you will more than likely get gas pains in your shoulder and peppermint tea helps)
- My CBD to help me sleep if I am in hospital for more than a night I know I’ll need it as the wards are noisy
- 2 x large nighties (rather than PJs) as it gets so hot in hospital and you want something loose on your stomach. Maybe even take 3 as once I was sick on mine so that was one already straight in the washing bag!
- Slippers as when you go to the loo or shower you’ll want something on your feet. I use slipper socks though as I don’t really like slippers.
- Snacks! They do feed you in hospital but I really hate relying on other people to bring me food and I get han-gry!
- Book or magazine. I always try to get into a book first so I am looking forward to reading it.
As I have had multiple surgeries my scars are all at different stages but this picture gives you an idea of how much they differ. I have one which is 4 years old but probably my most prominent scar. I think lots of key hole surgeries go through your belly button so my belly button is quite scarred but I have also had a belly button hernia removed so don’t let this panic you, if you’re worried about key hole scars.
If you have any questions about recovering from keyhole surgery, then email Rachel – firstname.lastname@example.org