Stomach ulcer surgery is rare, because there are now many other effective non-surgical treatments available. However in a few cases, it may be suggested due to certain reasons. When your doctor recommends this option, it should outweigh the risks. How about the recovery time? How long does it take to recover?
Brief summary of stomach ulcer treatments
As the name suggests, it is a sore in the lining of the stomach. A burning pain arising from the stomach is the main symptom.
- The pain can start between meals or sometimes during the night.
- It usually will briefly stop with antacids or if you eat.
- How long it last can range from several minutes or even a few hours.
- It can be chronic (come and go) for days to weeks.
The underlying cause of the disease plays a key role on determining the treatment plan. The goals of the treatment:
- To make the infection clear up. For example, antibiotic is prescribed to kill the ‘H. pylori bacterium’ (if present).
- To eliminate any medication that worsens the problem such as aspirin, NSAIDs, or similar medications (if possible).
- And to help heal the ulcer with medication.
Sometimes stomach ulcer can be caused by more than one cause. For instance, it may be caused by a combination of NSAIDs and bacterial infection. For such case, a course of PPI (proton pump inhibitor) and antibiotic is recommended – and at the same time, your regular use of certain pain relievers (including NSAIDs) will also be reviewed.
PPI is a medication to help promote healing by blocking the acid production in the stomach. Although some types of PPI are available for over-the-counter medications, it’s much better to take the medication with prescription. Long-term regular use of PPI (at high doses) may become counterproductive, causing increased risk of spine and wrist fracture.
H2-receptor antagonist is alternative option. It can also help reduce the amount of acid released into your stomach and digestive system, relieving pain and promoting healing. It is occasionally prescribed instead of PPI.
In some cases, the following additional medications may be given:
- Antacids to help improve and relieve pain in the short term. They can neutralize acid in the stomach, relieving the symptoms quickly. But they will not heal the ulcer!
- Certain medications to help give extra protection to the lining of your stomach. For example, cytoprotective agents may be prescribed to protect soft-tissues that cover your stomach and small intestine.
Does stomach ulcer require surgery?
Again, nowadays stomach ulcer surgery is not common treatment option. However in rare cases, it may be required.
In the rare event, there are several reasons of when stomach ulcer may require surgery. These include:
- If the disease doesn’t heal with other treatments. Sometimes it can be intractable disease or continue to grow. For such case, more aggressive treatment such as surgery is worth a try to prevent the disease from causing dangerous complication.
- One of the main goals is to control the stomach acid. This is important to prevent the ulcer from getting worse and promote healing. If other treatments fail to reduce the stomach acid, surgery is suggested to remove certain part of your stomach so the stomach acid level is not easy to rise.
- Uncontrolled bleeding ulcer during an endoscopy (a procedure that penetrates endoscope, a flexible small tubes with tiny instruments (including a light and camera), through the mouth into the stomach). Endoscopy is one of common procedures to help diagnose the stomach ulcer. During this procedure, doctors may find bleeding ulcer. They usually use a laser to stop the bleeding. But if this doesn’t work, a surgical procedure called ‘partial gastrectomy’ is alternative option to stop the bleeding by removing certain part of the stomach.
- If the disease has caused serious, life-threatening complications.
How long does stomach ulcer surgery take?
There are a number of types of surgery. Each type has pros and cons. Which one you need to take is dependent on the exact problem the disease has created.
How long the surgery lasts can vary, each case is different. It can range from several minutes to a few hours.
The severity of the problem often plays a key role. The type of the surgery and the unexpected factors can have an effect, too.
For example, the procedure can be shorter than usual if the bleeding is mild or if all the necessary instruments (equipment, human activity, and supplies) are perfectly synchronized. But sometimes it can go into overtime if there is unexpected finding that may change the procedure and require extra time.
How long does it take to recover?
The same goes for the recovery time after surgery. It varies from patient to patient, which can range from several weeks to a few months. It may also take longer or shorter than expected.
How long the recovery takes is dependent on several factors. These include:
- The specific of surgical procedure you have.
- Whether or not the surgery works successfully, because there is always the chance for complications.
- Your overall health.
- Certain medical condition that you may have.
- Even something as simple as your age may also have an effect.
Surgical wound site, where surgeon made the cut into your skin, usually will heal fairly quickly. But the same doesn’t go for the deeper tissues that make up your abdominal wall. They usually will take a little bit longer to recover.
With all of these factors, the length of time you will need to get a complete recovery is not easy to predict. For more information about your recovery time, talk with someone (your doctor or surgeon) who has the best idea of how long it will take!
How about the enhanced recovery program?
As the name suggests, it’s designed to help you full health more quickly and go home sooner than conventionally expected.
It’s usually suggested before you take the operation, since it requires comprehensive steps and efforts before and after surgery. For examples, patients may need to follow the following steps before the operation so they will recover more quickly:
- Eating right with balanced diet to make sure they get plenty of essential nutrients for repair.
- Some doctors believe that patients with physically active before their surgery are more likely to recover quicker.
- Try to not worry about the surgery! If necessary, certain relaxation therapies before the operation may be suggested.
- Avoid alcohol and cigarette smoking, both before and after surgery! Alcohol and smoking may inhibit the recovery and increase the risk of complications.
Where possible, your surgeon may recommend specific techniques that will provide a faster recovery – such as using regional /local anesthesia and keyhole procedure (minimally invasive surgery). After surgery, other approaches such as rehabilitation services (including physiotherapy) are usually recommended.
If you do believe that you will have benefits from the enhanced recovery program, ask your doctor /surgeon whether you can take it at the hospital you’re going to!
Pain is the common discomfort after surgery, which is usually dependent on the degree of invasiveness. Painkilling medication is usually prescribed to help soothe your pain.
It’s also important to pay attention on some possible complications after surgery, such as:
- Complications may occur soon after the operation (when you are still in hospital) such as recurrence of bleeding, wound infections, or anastomotic leaks.
- Dumping syndrome, a condition of when foods move from the stomach to the guts in abnormally, uncontrolled fast manner. The symptoms include abdominal discomforts such as cramps, nausea and vomiting. Sometimes it may also cause dizziness and rapid heart rate. Fortunately, it often responds to lifestyle measures such as eating smaller meals, chewing well, and avoiding fluid with meal!
- Diarrhea, passing loose-watery stools.
- Malabsorption (deficiencies of folate, minerals (iron), or vitamin B12). It may occur due to poor dietary intake, decreased acid secretion, and decreased intrinsic factor.
- Blood clot, though it is more common in orthopedic procedures. Symptoms include swelling, discolored skin, and veins that appear larger than normal in the affected leg.
Once you’re ready to go home, ask anything else you need to follow! For example, there may be specific instructions about any physical movements to avoid or exercises you need to carry out (ask your physiotherapist for more advice).
You usually will also be given comprehensive information about how to take an appropriate dose of your painkilling medication at home, how to care for your surgical wound, and certain equipment you may need (such as bandages, splints, and crutches).