Surgical procedures are never fun. For most people, they are downright unnerving. Even relatively noninvasive procedures and “routine outpatient surgeries,” like laparoscopies, laparoscopic cyst removal and so forth, still warrant cause for concern.
Time and time again, of all the people I know, I am the first person to run to the Internet to try and self-diagnose or to anticipate how I will feel during and after a procedure. I know I am not alone in that respect. So, I wanted to share my experience in the hopes that it might alleviate some worry or shed some light on laparoscopy and laparoscopic cyst removal. Through this article, I wanted to share some observations and experiences from my recent surgical procedure – laparoscopy to remove a benign cyst from one of my ovaries.
Completely out of character for me, I didn’t even read up on what laparoscopy was or how they do it. I relied on my doctor’s two-minute debriefing and the accounts of a few of my coworkers and family members who had also endured the same procedure. It astonished me to learn that removal of an ovarian cyst via laparoscopy is not at all uncommon. In fact, as I told more people about my upcoming laparoscopic procedure, it seemed each person’s mother, cousin, friend, or coworker also had the same surgery. I was not alone!
Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that involves making tiny incisions in the abdomen. The surgery employs a lighted instrument (laparoscope) as a camera so the doctor can perform the procedure with clear visibility into the abdominal region. My procedure involved three incisions. The first one was inside my bellybutton (the most painful!), one on my left lower abdomen, and one in the pelvis area, just below my bikini line.
As the typically super busy person that I am, I found it easy to avoid and ignore the upcoming surgical procedure for a month and a half leading up to the big day. I stayed off of the WebMD and Mayo Clinic Web sites. I also completely blocked the surgery from my mind until the weekend preceding it. Even then, I really didn’t give the laparoscopy or the cyst removal much thought.
What to Expect on the Morning of the Laparoscopic Cyst Removal
Somewhat amusingly (in retrospect), I went into my surgical day with the intentions of enjoying a nice celebratory lunch once the pesky ovarian cyst had been whisked out of my body. I imagined French fries and a turkey club, hold the mayo, tomatoes, and lettuce. At first, I had the impression that my laparoscopic cyst removal surgery and recovery were going to be a breeze based on what I heard from the majority of the people who’d had laparoscopy or those who knew someone who had. I was not prepared for what I was about to hear, or what happened to me later that night.
Following some discussion with the nurse, the anesthesiologist visited me to go over some details. He reminded me of a character from one of the medical shows I like to watch so much. He casually informed me of various side effects of the anesthesia that would most likely impact the way I felt after the laparoscopy… nausea, pain, extreme pain in my shoulder from GAS THEY WOULD USE TO INFLATE MY BELLY!!! It now seemed that lunch might not be such a definite part of my day. In fact, I started to get really nervous at this point. Of course, the anesthesiologist assured me that I would already be sleeping for any of the scary parts of the procedure.
A quick word on surgery times and scheduling…. Be prepared – there may be a bit of waiting around and sitting in a hospital gown with your butt cheeks flapping in the wind as you await your turn on the morning of your procedure. For me, the worst part besides being scared in general involved the fact that I could not eat or drink anything at all after midnight. I normally guzzle water like it’s going out of style every day, starting around 9 in the morning, if not earlier. It was tough to be allowed only a small sip of water here or there – I think a total of three sips from midnight to my surgery, which didn’t begin until around 11 a.m.
My hubby and mom and sister got to take turns sitting with me until my doctor came by to make sure I was ready. The nurse carted me over to a room where I met another nurse and then received an IV to relax me before they took me into the operating room where I would have the cyst removed from my left ovary. The IV did make me sleepy, and I barely remember anything between getting stuck in the arm and then talking a little bit to the anesthesia guys. The last thing I remember is just a blip – I saw these two big blue, bright lights above me and out I went.
Waking Up from Anesthesia After the Laparoscopy
Oh – did I forget to mention that they put a tube down your throat while they work and as you sleep? Yeah, well luckily they remove it before you wake up, but I did have quite the scratchy throat as I came to. Luckily the nurses have a heavy supply of ice chips and Styrofoam cups with little plastic spoons to help ease the raw throat.
Apparently, upon first waking up I asked the nurse about replacing my navel ring. I guess I was so worried about it closing up that it was the first thing on my mind when I started coming out of the anesthesia. I honestly don’t even remember asking her about it. Truthfully, when I realized the swelling and pain in my belly and especially bellybutton area, I realized that I would not be replacing my bellybutton ring anytime soon. In fact, I don’t think I’m going to replace it at all because I’m quite sure, at more than a week later the piercing hole is more than likely sealed shut. This piercing is the only one I have, other than earrings, so this is the only thing I had to remove besides all my jewelry.
One thing that amused me in particular upon waking up from the anesthesia – if you don’t take enough deep breaths, a machine hooked up to you starts to beep so that a nurse comes over. It took me a few times before I asked her what it meant, and then I made it a point to breathe better. I wanted to get out of the recovery room and go see my honey and my mom and sis! Soon after I learned the trick to earlier release, I found myself on the way back to the original room where I first started out that morning.
What to Expect in the Hospital after the Laparoscopy…
What to Expect in the Hospital after Laparoscopic Removal of the Cyst
Getting dressed required tact on my part. It was a bit painful and then the incision on my bellybutton sprung a leak and blood got all over my favorite pajama top. (Note to potential laparoscopy patients: Don’t bring your favorite pajamas to the hospital for this very reason!) I got patched up and then my hubby saved the day by bringing in a comfier tee for me to wear.
The nurse seemed eager to get me out of the hospital. She told me I was almost ready to be discharged and I just had to go empty my bladder. Then she walked away and another nurse came by within a moment’s time. With a pleasant smile, she said “You’re discharged. Someone can go get the car now,” and she summoned a hospital volunteer to bring a wheelchair over so that I could leave.
What to Expect during Your First Day of Recovery Following Laparoscopic Cyst Removal…
For the most part, you are just going to want to sleep when you get home. Move as little as possible, and drink some fluids. Try to empty your bladder when you feel able, but keep in mind that the anesthesia can really mess with your body functions for the first day or so. For example, your bladder may not cooperate when you need to urinate. Urine retention can be a painful and frightening side effect of anesthesia from laparoscopic ovarian cyst removal. If you have a problem, you may need to go back to the hospital for medical assistance (The hospital can help you to empty your bladder with a catheter).
You may not be hungry right away either, and you may be dizzy and / or sleepy. Your tummy will be sore and you may want to take whatever the doctor prescribes for you. Also, as the anesthesiologist told me, the gas they use to give the doctor more room to work during the laparoscopic cyst removal actually doesn’t all leave your body immediately. In fact, some of it gets absorbed by your body and some of it tries to get out however it can. In my case and in many cases, it causes severe pain in the right shoulder. I think I actually needed the pain meds more for this than for my incisions and swollen abdomen.
What They (Probably) Don’t Tell You, But I Will
If you are having a cyst removed from one of your ovaries, there may be a few things they do not tell you prior to your procedure. You may actually begin spotting following the procedure because all that stuff is connected down there. Bleeding or spotting after laparoscopic ovarian cyst removal can last until your next period arrives, or if you are on a type of birth control that gives you fewer periods, you may still find the spotting lingering until you get your next menstrual cycle. My doctor said this happens because they actually insert an instrument into your uterus during the procedure to move it out of the way so it is not damaged during the surgery. Good thing we are asleep for this!
Also, you may not expect it, but your muscles may not cooperate on the most basic functions. Call your doctor or a nurse hotline if you start to have problems, or if there is an emergency, call 911. I did have complications and my husband did have to call 911 and he and my dad rushed to the hospital after the ambulance. Everything turned out fine and I was soon better, but always remember it is better to be safe than sorry. So if you feel like you need to go back to the hospital – as much as you don’t want to – GO!
What to Expect in the First Week of Recovery Following Laparoscopy…
What to Expect in the First Week of Recovery Following Laparoscopic Cyst Removal…
Everyone’s bodies are different and they respond differently to procedures, treatments, and medications, so please keep in mind that my experience may not be an indicator of what yours will be. I just wanted to share in case it is helpful for anyone to hear about what it’s like first-hand to have a cyst removed from your ovary by laparoscopic surgery.
Swelling and Hardness
Following the surgery, my bellybutton swelled a lot and stayed swollen for several days to a week. The area around my bellybutton was hard and swollen, puffy, and tender to the touch. A basic description of the post-surgical change to the bellybutton area would be comparable to the circumference of a medium sized donut in surface area, but only slightly (but noticeably!) raised from the skin. My bellybutton area was definitely hard for several days and tender to the touch, so you’ll want to be careful moving around.
Keep the areas bandaged up. Bandaids will probably do, unless you have a little bit of fluid coming from any of the incisions. My bellybutton leaked a little bit of clear fluid for a day or two, so you may need to wrap it with a bit of gauze.
Your doctor will tell you when you can shower for the first time. Replace the bandages as needed. Keep the areas clean. Do not use medicated creams or other products unless directed to do so.
In the beginning, you may not want to eat at all. I had a few pieces of mildly tasteless graham crackers at the hospital and in my hubby’s car on the way home. Then I think I had some lightly buttered white rice around dinnertime. Soon I graduated to a cheeseburger, Cheetos, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and chicken tenders and fries. It took me around three days or more before I could eat a normal diet.
Even today, a week and change later, I am super sleepy. It is hard to make it through a day without a nap. Driving makes me perilously tired, but I am very careful. I get home from work and I don’t feel like doing anything at all. Sleep as much as you can in the days you take off, and don’t overexert yourself. Ask for help doing things if you need it. My dad and my husband watered my flowers and vegetable garden for me the first few days after my surgery.
Also, several nurses told me that walking around will help to get the anesthesia out of your body more quickly. This can be a very good thing if you are feeling up to it. Just don’t over do it, and be careful of your stitches and incisions and sore insides.
Editor’s Note: Even three weeks to a month or more after the laparoscopic surgery, I felt as if my usual energy levels had still not yet returned to normal. At times even months and months later I still feel more lethargic than I’ve ever felt before the surgery, but I am also getting older and working a lot, so it’s hard to blame it all on the procedure.
Sleep like it’s going out of style. Trust me. I am so tired now, and I slept TONS during my time off.
Oh, and there is good news and bad news about sleeping. I am a stomach sleeper or a side sleeper. Laparoscopic cyst removal does not really take stomach sleepers or side sleepers into account, despite what your doctor may tell you. It took me nine days before I could sleep on my side again and a bit longer to sleep on my stomach after laparoscopy. That is the bad news.
The good news is that you are so tired all the time that, with a little help from your pain meds or a really comfy bed and pillow, you can probably fall asleep on your back fairly easily, even if you think you can’t. So don’t think about it too much and just do it!
I found myself in a really lazy and helpless mood for the entire first three days. If I could get help doing things, I wanted it. If I could get waited on hand and foot, even better yet. My dad and my husband did an awesome job caring for me and constant support from other family members and friends really kept me getting better one day at a time. Soon I started feeling like my old self again!
What Activity Restrictions Might You Face Following Laparoscopic Cyst Removal?
Truthfully, for the first few days to a week you may not feel like doing much of anything. Here are some things your doctor will advise you to avoid or things you may decide to avoid on your own…
No intercourse for two weeks, and if your menstrual cycle arrives during this time, you cannot use tampons.
Don’t drive, drink alcohol, or make any major decisions for at least 24 hours.
From my perspective, I have not done any strenuous exercise yet and I have avoided the hot tub in case that would agitate my stitches.
I would also suggest no heavy lifting.
For the first few days, try to keep your body as vertical or horizontal as you can. If you must, crouch or squat – try not to bend!
What Are the Best Things to Do During Recovery from Laparoscopic Cyst Removal?
Rest and relax
Go for walks
Watch movies or television (treat yourself – I wish I had.)
- Surf the Web / Shop online
Look through photos
Play cards or board games if you feel especially energetic
You might also want to pamper yourself a bit. Here are some of my favorite ways to do that after a medical procedure:
As for that last one, don’t forget to stock up on some delightful liquid you can enjoy from the comforts of your couch!
It’s been six months or more since I had an ovarian cyst removed via laparoscopy. My incisions have healed nicely and you can only just faintly see the scar on the left side of my belly and the one just below my bikini line. Yay!