What you should know
A gastrectomy is surgery to remove part or all of your stomach.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
- You may have an allergic reaction to the anesthesia medicine, and have trouble breathing. Surgery may cause bleeding or an infection such as pneumonia. After surgery, you may not get enough nutrients. You may be able to only eat small amounts of food. You may have dumping syndrome (loose watery stools soon after you eat). You may get a blood clot in your arm or leg. The clot may travel to your heart or brain and cause life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack or stroke. Even with treatment, your symptoms may get worse.
- Without surgery, your symptoms may get worse. You may have difficulty eating or keeping food down. If you have cancer of the stomach, it could spread to other parts of your body. You may have bleeding from nearby blood vessels, and this could be life-threatening.
The week before your surgery:
- Arrange a ride home. Ask a family member or friend to drive you home after your surgery or procedure. Do not drive yourself home.
- Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
- You may need a blood transfusion if you lose a large amount of blood during surgery. Some people are worried about getting AIDS, hepatitis, or the West Nile virus from a blood transfusion. The risk of this happening is very low. Blood banks test all donated blood for AIDS, hepatitis, and the West Nile virus. You may be able to donate your own blood before surgery. This is called autologous blood donation. This must be done no later than three days before surgery. You may also ask a family member or friend with the same blood type to donate blood for you. This is called directed blood donation.
- Tell your caregiver if you know or think you might be pregnant.
- You may need blood and urine tests or imaging tests, such as x-rays, CT, or PET scans. A PET scan is a test used to check the function of your organs and tissues or look for cancer. Sample tissues from a tumor may be taken and sent to a lab for tests. You may also need procedures before your surgery, such as endoscopy, endoscopic ultrasound, or laparoscopy. Ask your caregiver for more information about other tests you may need. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.
- Write down the correct date, time, and location of your surgery.
The night before your surgery:
- Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.
- You may be given an enema to empty your bowel before surgery.
The day of your surgery:
- Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
- Caregivers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.
- An anesthesiologist may talk to you before your surgery. This caregiver may give you medicine to make you sleepy before your procedure or surgery. Tell your caregiver if you or anyone in your family has had a problem using anesthesia in the past.
- You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
What will happen:
- You may be given medicine to prevent an infection and help you relax or make you drowsy. You may also receive general anesthesia medicine to keep you asleep and control pain during the surgery. You will be placed on your back. Your chest and abdomen will be cleaned and then covered with sheets.
- During your surgery, an incision will be made on your abdomen. Your caregiver will carefully cut through or push aside muscles and other tissues until your stomach is seen. Depending on your condition, your caregiver may remove the whole stomach or leave part of it. He will connect your esophagus or the remaining stomach to your small intestine. A thin tube may be placed in your incision to drain fluids or blood from your abdomen. The incision will be closed with stitches or staples and covered with bandages.
After your surgery:
You may be taken to a recovery room, where you will stay until you are fully awake. Caregivers will watch you closely for problems. Do not try to get out of bed until your caregiver says it is okay. When caregivers see that you are okay, you will be taken to your hospital room. The bandages covering your incision will keep the area clean and dry to prevent infection. A caregiver will remove the bandages soon after your surgery to check your wound.
Contact a caregiver if
- You get sick or have a fever.
- You have infected skin or a wound on your abdomen.
- You have questions or concerns about your surgery.
Seek Care Immediately if
- You have severe abdominal pain, or feel faint or weak.
- You have trouble breathing or chest pain all of a sudden.
- You vomit after having small amounts of food or liquids.
- You vomit blood.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.