Descriptions below give general descriptions of why a surgery might be necessary, what the surgery will entail, and normal recovery times. Note that these descriptions are only for general reference and may not be relevant to your particular case. Please consult with your surgeon about your specific surgical plan and any special circumstances.
A hernia occurs when an organ, such as the intestines, protrudes through the abdominal wall, causing a bulge that can be felt through the skin. Though hernias can occur in other areas of the body as well, they are most common in the abdominal wall. Coughing, bending, or lifting heavy objects can increase pain associated with hernias. Hernias can be caused by existing weaknesses in the abdominal wall, increased pressure within the abdomen, straining during bowel movements or urination, pregnancy, strenuous activity, or chronic coughing or sneezing.
- A bulge on either side of the pubic bone that becomes more obvious when you stand
- A burning, aching, or “dragging” sensation at the bulge
- Pain or discomfort in the groin area, especially when you cough, bend over, or lift heavy object
- Weakness or pressure in the groin area
If the symptoms above coincide with nausea or vomiting, fever, suddenly intensifying pain, darkening or reddening of the hernia bulge, or inability to move bowels or pass gas, call your doctor immediately. These symptoms can be signs of a strangulated hernia, which can be life-threatening.
Abdominal wall reconstruction surgery corrects abdominal weaknesses caused by recurring hernias, injuries, or non-healing wounds. Abdominal wall reconstruction requires moving abdominal tissues to redistribute the abdominal muscles. Though most hernias are not life-threatening, surgery helps prevent discomfort and potential complications.
Most patients will be able to resume normal work after one week. We recommend waiting at least two weeks to resume normal exercise. Consult with your doctor before resuming any activities.
Adrenal glands are small triangular-shaped glands above the kidneys. Your adrenal glands produce important hormones the body needs to function properly (such as adrenaline, aldosterone, and cortisol). If a tumor develops on an adrenal gland, it can affect hormone production. Most adrenal tumors are benign, but approximately 10-15% are cancerous. Adrenal tumors may be asymptomatic and are most often identified during an unrelated abdominal x-ray.
- Headache, sweating, and heart palpitations
- Uncontrollable blood pressure
- Blurred vision
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Rapid heart rate
- High blood pressure and low blood potassium
- Weakness, fatigue, and frequent urination (Conn Syndrome)
- Obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, menstrual irregularities, fragile skin, and stretch marks (Cushing Syndrome)
If tumors appear in the adrenal glands, surgery is performed to remove all or part of the glands. For laparoscopic adrenalectomy, four to five small incisions will be made into the side of your abdomen, and laparoscopic instruments will be used to extract the adrenal gland. For an open adrenalectomy, one long incision is made across the abdomen in order to remove the adrenal gland.
Most patients take 1 to 2 weeks to recover from the laparoscopic surgery and 5 to 6 weeks to recover from an open adrenalectomy.
The appendix is a long, narrow tube attached to the colon. It is usually located in the lower right quadrant of the abdominal cavity. The appendix can become obstructed, causing swelling and inflammation. If the appendix becomes infected, it must be removed because it can perforate or rupture if left untreated. You can live a normal, healthy life without an appendix.
- Pain around the navel that moves to the lower right side of the abdominal wall
- Increased pain and pressure on the right side when walking or standing up straight
- Lack of appetite
- Diarrhea or constipation
Traditionally, the appendix is removed through an incision in the right lower abdominal wall (open surgery). Open surgery may be necessary in certain cases, like a ruptured appendix. In other cases, laparoscopic surgery may be possible (appendix removed via several small incisions using special surgical tools and a camera).
Most patients can resume all normal activities within one to two weeks. Scarring is usually minimal.
Brachytherapy, also called internal radiation therapy, is one type of radiation therapy used to treat cancer. During the procedure, radioactive material is surgically placed inside your body, allowing for the delivery of a higher total dose of radiation to a smaller area and in a shorter time than is possible with external beam radiation treatment. Brachytherapy often causes fewer side effects and has a shorter treatment time than traditional radiation.
In temporary brachytherapy, a delivery device, such as a catheter, needle, or applicator, is placed into the tumor using imaging such as fluoroscopy, ultrasound, MRI, or CT to help position the radiation sources. When the treatment is completed, the delivery device is removed from the patient. In some cases, such as for treatment for prostate cancer, the radioactive material will be placed permanently in the body.
The placement of the catheter itself is minimally invasive and requires little recovery time. You may have certain restrictions with who can visit you while you have high levels of radiation in your body. Your treatment team will discuss the side effects of radiation and recovery time associated with brachytherapy.
The colon (also known as the large bowel or large intestine) is a tubular muscle that absorbs water and prepares waste to be expressed from the body. The last four inches of the colon are called the rectum. Common problems associated with the colon include polyps, cancer, infection, and inflammation.
- Difficulty passing gas or stools
- Fever and chills
- Severe abdominal pain
- Rectal bleeding
- Bloody stools
A colectomy is the removal of part of the colon (partial colectomy) or the entire colon (total colectomy). Colectomy can be used to treat a variety of diseases, including colon or rectal cancer, large polyps, diverticular disease, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), or bleeding that cannot be stopped. During a laparoscopic colectomy, the surgeon makes several small incisions and removes part of the colon and lymph nodes. The portion of the colon removed depends on the nature of the disease.
Recovery time is dependent on the level of surgical intervention. Your doctor will discuss specific details with you.
The gallbladder stores the bile that the liver produces and then releases it into the main bile duct, where it then drains into the small intestine to assist with digesting fats. If your body is not processing cholesterol correctly, the gallbladder can produce gallstones. Occasionally, the gallbladder will produce symptoms associated with gallstones even if stones are not present (a condition called biliary dyskinesia).
- Back pain
- Shoulder pain
- Pain after eating (specifically in the upper mid- or right-side of the belly)
Surgery to remove the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) is used to treat gallstones or biliary dyskinesia. In a cholecystectomy, the gallbladder is removed laparoscopically via a small incision by the naval.
You may experience right-shoulder pain for the first day or two after surgery. Patients can resume normal activities within one or two weeks. You may experience some food intolerances, though these are usually temporary.
Gastrointestinal surgery can be used to treat a range of conditions, from cancer of the stomach to digestive ailments.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is when acid backflows from the stomach and into the esophagus. This backflow is caused by an abnormally relaxed or weakened valve (the esophageal sphincter) between the stomach and esophagus. Acid in the esophagus can cause frequent heartburn and can damage the esophageal lining. GERD is a clinical condition associated with reflux so severe that the patient experiences decreased quality of life or esophageal damage. Some GERD can be treated by lifestyle/diet changes and medication. Diet changes may include avoiding smoking, caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, peppermint, citrus, sodas, and fatty foods. Lifestyle changes may include smaller meals, eating more slowly, no eating close to bedtime, raising the head of your bed, and losing excess weight. You can also try over-the-counter antacids. If these changes do not help, surgical treatment may be recommended.
- Frequent heartburn
- Acid taste in back of throat or mouth (bitter- or sour-tasting fluid)
- Pain in upper abdomen
- Worsening symptoms when bending or lying down
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Cough, hoarseness, or sore throat
Laparoscopic fundoplication reinforces the esophageal sphincter, preventing the excessive backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus. In this procedure, the top of the stomach is wrapped around the lower esophagus.
Laparoscopic fundoplication usually requires a one-night stay in the hospital. You should be able to return to normal activities within one to two weeks. You should continue to take your anti-reflux medication until your follow-up appointment.
The parathyroid glands are four small glands on each corner of the thyroid gland. The parathyroid glands regulate bodily calcium and phosphorous levels through the production of parathyroid hormone (PTH). If this hormone is overproduced (hyperparathyroidism), blood calcium becomes elevated while phosphorous levels drop. If too little is produced (hypoparathyroidism), the opposite occurs.
Symptoms associated with hyperparathyroidism:
- Kidney stones
- High blood pressure
- Peptic ulcers
- Increased thirst and urination
- Poor memory
Symptoms associated with hypoparathyroidism:
- Muscle cramps
- Twitching and convulsions
Parathyroid problems are often caused by a non-cancerous growth on one of the parathyroid glands. In most cases, only one of the four glands needs to be removed. If all four glands are enlarged and overproducing PTH, surgeons will usually leave a small piece of one gland, which can then regenerate.
Parathyroid surgery is usually done as an outpatient procedure. You may have some bruising, pain with swallowing, hoarse voice, and neck pain following the surgery. You can resume normal activities after one week.
Sentinel node biopsy is used to determine whether cancer has spread beyond a primary tumor and into the lymphatic system. A sentinel lymph node is the first node into which a cancer drains. Sentinel node biopsy is most commonly used in cases of breast cancer or melanoma.
Tracer material (either radioactive material or blue dye) is injected into the body to help the surgeon locate the sentinel nodes during surgery. Once the nodes are identified, they are removed and biopsied. If no cancer is found, it is generally unnecessary to remove additional lymph nodes. If cancer is found in the sentinel nodes, additional lymph nodes will need to be removed in order to determine the extent to which the cancer has spread.
Lymph node removal is usually done under general anesthesia as an outpatient procedure. Your activity level and hospital stay will be determined in part by your overall cancer treatment plan.
The small bowel, also known as the small intestine, is a long tube that carries food from the stomach to the large intestine (also known as the colon). Conditions affecting the small bowel include Crohn’s Disease, obstructions, and cancer. There are several types of cancer found in the small bowel. These include adenocarcinoma, gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), carcinoid tumors, and lymphoma.
- Abdominal pain
- Uncontrolled weight loss
- Weakness and fatigue
- Low red blood cell count
- Obstructed bowel
- Bloody stool
Small bowel resection (removal of a part of the small bowel) can often be done laparoscopically.
Surgical treatment of small bowel cancers depends on the type, location, and size of tumor; whether the cancer has spread; and other health conditions. Surgical treatment may be done in combination with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
For laparoscopic small bowel resection, you should expect to be in the hospital for several days. You can resume driving and some normal activities after two weeks, but you should avoid strenuous activities for several weeks. Recovery time for small bowel cancer surgery is dependent on the surgical intervention used.
The stomach is a muscular organ located under the ribs. It connects the esophagus and the small intestine. Stomach acids begin the digestive process and prepare fats, starches, and proteins for entry into the small intestine. Common conditions affecting the stomach include ulcers and tumors (both benign and malignant). An ulcer is a sore resulting from the erosion of the mucous membrane. Stomach cancers are most often found in the inner layers of the stomach lining.
- Burning pain
- Feeling of fullness or bloating
- Fatty food intolerance
- Abdominal discomfort
- Black/bloody stools
- Vomiting after meals
- Vomiting of blood
- Weight loss
Ulcers can often be treated with medicine and dietary changes. When necessary, endoscopy (a long tube inserted through the mouth and into the stomach) can be used to stop bleeding. In severe cases, surgery may be needed to remove a damaged part of the stomach wall.
Some stomach cancers can also be treated with an endoscopy, in which the surgeon navigates the tube into the stomach and removes the tumor. In more advanced cases, a partial or full gastrectomy may be required. A partial gastrectomy removes part of the stomach, after which the remaining stomach is connected to the small intestine. In a full gastrectomy, the stomach is removed altogether, and the esophagus is connected directly to the small intestine.
After an endoscopy, you may experience bloating, cramping, or a sore throat. Patients who undergo a partial or full gastrectomy can live a normal life, though modifications may have to be made to diet and meal size. Recovery time for endoscopy and gastrectomy are dependent on the extent of the surgical intervention. Your surgeon will discuss specific details with you.
The thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, produces thyroid hormone, which regulates all other hormones in the body. If too much thyroid hormone is produced, the condition is called hyperthyroidism. If this cannot be managed by medication, surgical intervention may be required. Other reasons for thyroid surgery include an enlarged thyroid, thyroid nodules, and thyroid cancer.
- Unexplained weight loss
- Dry, brittle hair
- Rapid heartbeat
- Increased appetite
- Frequent bowel movements
- Enlarged thyroid gland
- Difficulty sleeping
Thyroid cancer symptoms:
- Lump in the neck
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pain in neck and throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
Thyroidectomy may be required to remove your thyroid gland in cases of thyroid cancer or uncontrollable hyperthyroidism. All or part of the thyroid gland will be removed through an incision in the base of the neck.
Following a thyroidectomy, you will need to take thyroid replacement hormone (levothyroxine, commonly known as Synthroid) for the rest of your life. Radioactive iodine treatment may also be necessary after surgery to destroy any remaining thyroid tissue. After surgery, pain should be minimal. You may experience hoarseness and voice fatigue for a few months following surgery. Calcium supplementation may be necessary to avoid low calcium levels.