Kate Middleton, The Princess of Wales, is recovering from “successful” abdominal surgery at The London Clinic in Marylebone.

The announcement of her “planned” operation came in a statement by Kensington Palace on Wednesday, and she is expected to remain there for the next 10 to 14 days.

The reason for the operation is not known, with the Palace stating: “The Princess of Wales appreciates the interest this statement will generate. She hopes that the public will understand her desire to maintain as much normality for her children as possible; and her wish that her personal medical information remains private.”

So what is abdominal surgery? Dr Deborah Lee of Dr Fox Online Pharmacy, detailed everything you need to know.

What is abdominal surgery?

Abdominal surgery is any kind of surgery that is needed on the internal organs which includes the stomach, small intestine, spleen, appendix, or colon (large bowel). It also includes surgery to repair a hernia.

What are some reasons for needing it?

  • Stomach or duodenal ulcers
  • Cholecystectomy – removal of the gallbladder
  • Splenectomy – removal of the spleen
  • Surgery to relieve bowel obstruction – blocked intestines
  • Colonic resection – removal of the large bowel due to diverticulitis, Crohn’s
  • Disease, Ulcerative colitis or bowel cancer
  • Appendicectomy – removal of an inflamed/infected appendix
  • Hernia repair – either due to acute strangulation of a hernia or as an elective procedure

Gynaecological surgery means operating in the pelvic region and is a type of abdominal surgery. This could include:

  • Surgical treatment for endometriosis – often done by keyhole surgery
  • Hysterectomy, sometimes for heavy periods, fibroids or cancer
  • Oophorectomy – removal of one or both ovaries due to an ovarian cyst or
  • ovarian tumour, or due to torsion of the ovary (the ovary becomes twisted which shuts off its blood supply)
  • Surgery for an ectopic pregnancy

Can abdominal surgery be high risk?

All abdominal surgery is regarded as high risk. Patients are at risk of:

  • Shock – this can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure.
  • Haemorrhage – may require intravenous fluids or a blood transfusion.
  • Wound infection – there may be a drain left in the wound. Wound infections require antibiotics and sometimes further surgery.
  • Deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism – this is a blood clot that forms in the deep vein of the calf muscle but may travel to the lungs causing chest pain and breathlessness. Surgical patients are given compression stockings and often subcutaneous anti-clotting injections after surgery.
  • Pneumonia – Being in pain may mean a patient doesn’t breathe in out properly and this can lead to infection in the lungs, causing chest pain and breathlessness.
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI) – Often patients have their bladder emptied in theatre or a urinary catheter inserted. This increases the risk of a UTI. Sometimes after surgery, a person can’t pass urine meaning they have gone into urinary retention.
  • Anaesthetic complications – sometimes patients react to the anaesthetic – this could be an allergic reaction which rarely could be fatal. More commonly patients feel sick and may vomit after a general anaesthetic and often complain of a sore throat as they have had a tube in the back of their throat holding open the airway.
  • The risk of death from a general anaesthetic is very rare in the UK – around five per million.

What is the recovery time?

For abdominal surgery, most people stay in the hospital for four to seven days.

After laparoscopic surgery, this is reduced to two to four days. It very much depends on what exactly has been done.

If a patient needs to go to an intensive therapy unit (ITU), it’s likely their hospital stay would be considerably longer.

It can take two months or more for the patient to feel comfortable and be able to move around normally afterwards.

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