What to Expect After Surgery for Colorectal Liver Metastases

If you’ve developed colorectal liver metastases and are eligible for surgery, you will undergo a procedure called resection or hepatectomy. This term means that if your liver is functioning well enough, you’ve gone through preoperative procedures and you have the proper ratio of liver-to-tumor volume to allow you at least 20 percent of healthy remaining liver, the surgery will involve removing any tumors and surrounding sections in your liver.

Resection is the most effective curative treatment and will likely extend your life by five years or much longer, but recovery will take time and care. Here is what to expect after surgery for liver metastases from colorectal cancer.

How You’ll Feel After Surgery

For about one or two weeks following your surgery, your belly will be tender and sore. It’s also common to feel a numbness in the skin around the incision point, which is normal and may decrease over time. In addition to soreness, you may experience:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Gas

While every person reacts and recovers differently, you should expect the healing process to take anywhere from four to eight weeks. In the meantime, make sure to take care of yourself properly at home.

Diet: What to Eat After Surgery

Make sure to push fluids directly after your surgery and continue to drink plenty in the weeks ahead. You should be able to continue eating your regular diet, although you may experience constipation or digestive issues. If constipation becomes an issue, incorporate more fiber into your diet or talk to your doctor about a supplement. If you feel nauseous or unable to process heavy foods, stick to low-fat, bland choices like yogurt, rice, toast and broiled chicken. Avoid alcohol, as it contributes to damaging the liver.

Activity After Surgery

Immediately after surgery, you’ll need as much rest as possible. Get plenty of sleep at night, and don’t feel ashamed of resting whenever you’re tired. When you feel able, begin to incorporate a daily walking routine. Start with a little walking, and gradually increase the distance each day to build your stamina, encourage blood flow and help digestion. Avoid anything too strenuous or rigorous for at least eight weeks, however — no heavy lifting, jogging, biking or aerobics.

Lifestyle After Surgery

Make sure you’re following the right procedures for keeping strain to a minimum following your surgery. This means asking friends or family members for help lifting heavy objects or performing tasks like vacuuming, dog walking and grocery shopping. Ask your doctor if you’re able to take showers immediately after your procedure, but make sure not to take a bath for at least two weeks.

Because you’ll need to consult your doctor about when you can resume activities like driving, self-care and sex, you might need to take sick leave from work for four to eight weeks.

To reduce the risk of pneumonia while your immune system is down, try to perform daily breathing exercises as your doctor directs. You may also want to regularly support your midsection and protect your incision with a pillow for when you breathe deeply, cough or make jarring physical contact.

Learn More About Surgery for Colorectal Liver Metastases

If you need more information on colorectal liver metastases and what to expect after surgery, consult our multidisciplinary team of liver specialists. With 20 years of experience in highly-specialized, individualized care, we’ll work for the results you deserve. Contact Dr. Fraiman today to talk about your options.