Pain after total gastrectomy


It's coming up on 4 weeks since I had my stomach removed, and just over a week since I was discharged from hospital. In many ways I would say I'm progressing well, especially in terms of food intake and what my new plumbing seems to be able to handle even at this early stage. My worry is that i am still in a lot of pain around my wound and abdomen (I have a frowny face scar the width of my belly from ribs to ribs), especially when I yawn or sneeze or even take a really deep breath. Is it normal to still be in pain and if so when can I hope to see an improvement?

11 Replies

  • Sorry that you are going through this. My personal experience was that I was in a lot of pain for the first 3 months post the surgery, then from then it started to get easier but the first 2 years are the toughest. It does get easier with time. I would get gastric issues a few times a year now and the severe pain that goes with it 2-3 times a year. It does get a lot easier and you can even eat a lot more with time. A 10 year survivor at this stage, this stage now seems like such a long time but it does get so much better.

  • Thanks aoife, maybe I'm just expecting too much too soon :)

  • Gwood80,

    Try & look at it in practical terms, the surgeon has had to cut through layers or fat, muscle, tendons & then do a bit of amazing jigsaw work to attach a lower organ (upper intestine) to a higher organ (oesophogus) it will take a lot of time to heal & you will need time to adjust. I had my surgery in August last year & I am no longer in pain but I feel like something is 'out of place' where my feeding tube was.I have a mtg with surgeon Tuesday so I will ask him about it.

    Use a cushion held against your stomach & chest when you need to cough & be careful when getting up from a laid down position. I am trying to get into a yoga class as I think that will help strengthen my 'core'.

    Hope you feel better soon.



  • Try meditation. It would ease the pain.

  • As a general rule, to be taken with a pinch of salt because everyone is different, after surgery the skin heals in 10-14 days, the muscles and incisions regain strength in 2 - 3 months, and nerves heal in approximately 9 months.

    So it sounds as if you are progressing along normal lines, and you should not worry as such. Which does not take the pain away of course. As you begin to regain more normal movement, the body starts to stretch the areas affected by the surgery, and there is a tendency to protect yourself from this by not moving so much. But gentle, progressive exercise will, over time, normally make you feel much fitter and stronger. You will have to be a bit persistent about this. Walking is good exercise, but do not overdo it. And a physiotherapist can be very helpful (although it might not feel it at the time).

    For some weeks I was not able to take a deep breath without coughing. I think this is because yawning and sneezing expands the chest and it creates extra pressure. Your chest may well be fuller than it used to be because part of your digestive tract has been pulled up to replace your stomach.

    It will normally get better, but on a timescale that is much slower than you would wish. This is natural, but the slow pace of recovery does not mean that the surgery has not been completely successful.

  • Thanks everyone. Looks like I should stop trying to run before I can walk.

  • That's such a big op gwood ,well done . I think 2 to 3 months for muscles to recover is a bit optimistic - tho as said we're all different .I suppose if you were doing daily exercises it might be that .

    I found I was very protective /wary of using my affected muscles in my torso ( roof top scar ) after surgery . I probably was too cautious and my strength in that area is only just starting to come back to former levels some 2 1/2 years on .

    But tbh after such a major op you need initially to concentrate on nutrition and recovery .

    Take care .

  • Met my surgeon today. He said not to worry about the pain as it may be something to do with the feeding tube and we will aim to have that out by the end of the week. Unfortunately my pathology came back and it wasn't great. 16 out of 19 lymph nodes had cancer in them. Onwards and upwards to chemo now and fingers crossed all the way.

  • HI

    So sorry about your pathology. Let's hope they got all and that chemo will whack off any strays.

    Pain wise - mine started easing at 2 months and the only pain I have now (8 months post-op) is below my ribs at the front where my lung didn't inflate properly (I had a 12 hour op as more cancer was found above the radiation field - a skip lesion) so sneezing and certain movements are uncomfortable. I do have shoulder problems (shoulder impingement) as well but it was there before and just flared up from the surgery and position during radiation

    I found going to a physio really helped post-operatively to ease all the aches - I did my exercises diligently and this sped healing up a lot.

    Thinking of you and I wish you'll the best.

  • Hang in there, mine was done 8 years back. i have had a recurrent problem after going to gym last 2 weeks ago. Hypoglucemia up to 3 times a day. I'm 76 years young and still handling it. Allow at about 2 to 3 months and the op pain will ease. Don't go to gym

  • Everyone has a different threshold for pain and healing.

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