A gastrectomy is a medical procedure where part or all of the stomach is surgically removed. There may be several reasons why someone is referred for a gastrectomy procedure. The most common in cancer of the stomach. However, a patient may also be referred for a gastrectomy due to esophageal cancer, stomach ulcers, non-cancerous tumors and in some instances, because they are so obese that their condition is life-threatening.
There are four main types of gastrectomy procedures. These are as follows:
Total gastrectomy: where the entire stomach is removed
Partial gastrectomy: where just the lower part of the stomach is removed
Sleeve gastrectomy: where the left side of the stomach is removed
Esophagogastrectomy: where the top part of the stomach and part of the esophagus is removed
Which type of gastrectomy you will be recommended will depend on the reason for which you have been referred for the procedure. However, all gastrectomy’s are considered major surgical procedures and so it is essential that if you are having this operation, you know what to expect to happen after it is complete.
Recovery after a gastrectomy
A gastrectomy is a serious surgery, so recovery can and should be expected to take a significant amount of time. It is normal to have to stay in the hospital for up to two weeks following your procedure, and during this time you will need a reasonable amount of support from your care team.
Starting to eat again after a gastrectomy
In the initial period after your gastrectomy, you may need to be fed intravenously. This is when liquidized nutrition is passed into your bloodstream via an IV rather than eaten by mouth. Alternatively, some patients are fed through a tube that is inserted directly through their abdomen and into their bowel. Many people find this difficult to process emotionally, but you will be able to eventually digest most foods and liquids again in the future although some changes to the way that you eat are to be expected. Many patients need to move onto eating very small and frequent meals and are unable to eat any large portion sizes. Most patients can begin to start eating via their mouths within a week of their procedure.
You will be advised to avoid eating any high-fiber foods immediately after having a gastrectomy as they will cause you to feel uncomfortably full. Instead, you will need to gradually increase your fiber intake.
Another thing to bear in mind is that you may need to take vitamin supplements to help ensure that you are getting adequate nutrition. You will be given specific advice relating to this based on your individual needs. Most patients who have had a partial or total gastrectomy will need regular B12 injections as it is difficult to absorb this vitamin from food if your stomach has been removed.
Pain relief after a gastrectomy
It is normal to be in some discomfort following a gastrectomy and you will be prescribed pain medication to try and keep this under control. Your care team will give you these at the necessary time whilst you are in hospital. However, if your painkillers aren’t as effective as you would like, it is important that you raise this with your doctor so that an alternative can be found.
Some patients may need to continue to take some pain relief once they return home, but in most instances, it is possible to move onto over the counter pain relief within a month of your surgery.
Movement and resuming regular activities after a gastrectomy
You should start trying to move around within 24 hours of your procedure as this will reduce the risk of you developing a blood clot and will kick start the healing process by encouraging oxygenated blood around your body. Walking also helps to prevent constipation from setting in. However, you will need to avoid lifting anything that you could make you strain.
Once you return home, you will need to take up to 6 weeks off of work. During this time, any strenuous activity must be avoided, and you will not be allowed to drive or have sexual intercourse until given permission by your doctor.
You will be advised to avoid bathing for at least the first 14 days after returning home. You will be able to shower, and you will need to pat the wound dry so that you don’t cause any damage to the sutures. You will also be given specific information about caring for the site of the wound and changing your bandages.
If you are undergoing a gastrectomy and would like more information about the procedure and what to expect from your recovery, please get in touch with our expert team by calling our offices today.