What is trapped air after laparoscopic surgery?

Answered by Tom Adger

Trapped air, also known as pneumoperitoneum, is a common occurrence after laparoscopic surgery. During this type of procedure, carbon dioxide gas is used to inflate the abdomen, creating a space for the surgeon to work. However, some of this gas can become trapped against the diaphragm, causing irritation to the phrenic nerve.

The phrenic nerve is a major nerve that controls the movement of the diaphragm, the primary muscle involved in the process of breathing. When the carbon dioxide gas irritates the phrenic nerve, it can result in referred pain, which is felt in areas other than the actual site of irritation. In the case of trapped air after laparoscopic surgery, this referred pain is commonly felt in the lower chest and can radiate up into the shoulder area.

The sensation of pain in the lower chest and shoulder area may vary in intensity and duration from person to person. Some individuals may experience mild discomfort, while others may experience more severe pain. The pain may be intermittent or constant, and it can last for a few hours to several days.

It is important to note that trapped air after laparoscopic surgery is a normal and expected side effect of the procedure. The carbon dioxide gas is eventually absorbed by the body and eliminated through respiration. In most cases, the pain associated with trapped air resolves on its own within a few days as the gas is absorbed.

There are a few strategies that can help alleviate the discomfort caused by trapped air. One common approach is to change positions frequently, as this can help the gas to disperse and be absorbed more efficiently. Engaging in gentle physical activity, such as walking, can also aid in the absorption of the gas.

In some cases, over-the-counter pain medications may be recommended to help manage the discomfort. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before taking any medication, as they can provide guidance on proper dosing and potential interactions with other medications.

It is worth mentioning that trapped air after laparoscopic surgery is generally a temporary issue and should not cause any long-term complications. However, if the pain becomes severe or persists for an extended period of time, it is important to contact a healthcare provider for further evaluation, as there may be other underlying causes that need to be addressed.

Trapped air after laparoscopic surgery is a common occurrence due to the use of carbon dioxide gas to inflate the abdomen. This trapped gas can irritate the phrenic nerve, resulting in referred pain felt in the lower chest and shoulder area. While the discomfort can be bothersome, it is usually temporary and resolves on its own as the gas is absorbed by the body. Various strategies, such as changing positions and engaging in gentle physical activity, can help alleviate the discomfort. If the pain persists or becomes severe, it is important to seek medical attention for further evaluation.