You may have to take some precautions while caring for your postsurgical wound at home. This includes bathing guidelines.
Gallbladder surgery is a procedure that removes your gallbladder. Doctors can remove your gallbladder in one of two ways:
- Open surgery: During open surgery, the surgeon removes your gallbladder using a large incision.
- Laparoscopic surgery: This procedure involves using a laparoscope, a long thin tube with a camera, inserted through small incisions.
Postsurgery care involves showering after 24–48 hours and taking a bath after 2 weeks, though it may depend on the type of surgery you had.
You may shower around 24–48 hours after surgery, but it may be best to avoid wetting the wound directly. Gently pat dry the area.
You may also have to wait at least 2 weeks to take a bath.
It’s important to follow your doctor’s guidelines. These guidelines are in place to help reduce your chance of developing an infection or other complications.
Reasons it may not be safe to bathe right after gallbladder surgery include:
- Increased risk of infection: If you have an incision that’s still healing and it comes into contact with water, bacteria can enter the wound, making you prone to infection. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, or an unpleasant odor.
- Disruption of the healing process: If you bathe and wet the wound, this can soften the area and reopen it.
- Adhesives may not stick: Surgical adhesives and dressings may fall off too early if you wet the area.
Your doctor or care team will provide specific tips on cleaning your body postsurgery. Below are some general guidelines:
0–48 hours after surgery
If the surgical team has put on a dressing, leave it on your wound for around 48 hours. Keep the area dry. Avoid bathing so you do not soak the wound in water.
You can change your dressing if there is blood. Before changing the dressing, wash your hands with soap and water and avoid touching the wound.
Do not rub the wound or clean it with soaps or shower gels.
Over 48 hours after surgery
Once 48 hours have passed, you can shower, but avoid applying water directly to the surgical area.
If your surgeon used dissolvable stitches, you could get them wet at this point. If you have non-dissolvable stitches, staples, or glue, only your doctor can remove them. You can typically get them wet after 24–48 hours.
Follow your doctor’s specific instructions, because your incision may be different than typical.
You may have to avoid swimming and other water activities if you have just had gallbladder surgery.
Your care team will confirm when it’s safe to swim once the wound has healed and they have removed your stitches.
However, you may have to wait longer than that for water activities if you have a health condition that
- type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic heart failure
Hot tubs and saunas
According to a
The National Health Service (NHS) recommends waiting at least 2 weeks before getting into a hot tub or sauna after gallbladder surgery. This gives the surgical wound more time to heal, as saunas and hot tub environments have high temperatures that can harm the surgical site.
If you want to receive a spa treatment, ask your surgeon when you can do so.
You want to limit the time you expose your skin to water, as your surgical incision is still healing.
You may get massage treatments 6 weeks after surgery. Scar tissues may form, indicating that the surgical incision is healing.
Massaging the area around the scar may help improve healing and reduce the pressure the scar tissue adds to the area.
Showering or bathing immediately after gallbladder surgery can soften adhesives and dressings and increase the risk of infection, so you may have to wait. Using hot tubs, pools, and saunas may also have to wait for a bit.
If you have any questions about your postsurgery recovery, reach out to your care team.