Use of Turmeric for Postop Symptoms After Laparoscopic Gallbladder Surgery

Patients that underwent gallbladder removal using laparoscopic techniques were assessed for the pain and fatigue felt after surgery. In India, turmeric (otherwise known as curcumin) is often recommended for relieving pain and fatigue because of its anti-inflammatory and healing properties. To study the effectiveness of curcumin, 50 patients who had undergone laparoscopic surgery were administered with either curcumin or a placebo along with painkillers post-op. The patients maintained elaborate records on their pain and fatigue levels after the surgery. These were evaluated after three days, and then once a week until the end of three weeks. Patients who were administered with curcumin were reported to show a faster relief from pain and fatigue after surgery.

Patients who have undergone laparoscopic surgery report a faster and a less painful recovery, thus causing this type of surgery to be the preferred technique for removal of the gallbladder. Surprisingly, though, this procedure has a long patient recovery period. The time needed for recovery is indicative of the levels of pain and fatigue felt by the patient after surgery. Patients report pain in spite of being administered with painkillers. According to the authors of this study, “Turmeric has been traditionally used in India for centuries as an acceptable remedy for traumatic pain and fatigue.” Turmeric contains ”curcumin,”  which is an active component involved in many biological pathways. It is an anti-inflammatory and known to heal wounds faster. This double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study therefore attempted to investigate the effect of curcumin on the recovery of patients after the surgical removal of the gallbladder.

* The study was carried out from July to September 2009. Fifty patients were selected from those who had undergone the surgical removal of their gallbladder. They were above 18 years of age and were literate. Medical tests were conducted for each. Demographic and medical information was also recorded.
* All patients were operated upon by the same surgeon using the same techniques. The post-operative medication for all patients was the same.
* Twenty-five patients were given a capsule containing 500 mg of curcumin every six hours. The remaining 25 patients were given a placebo capsule every six hours.
* The patients were instructed to keep a clear record of the pain and fatigue they felt daily during the recovery. Patients rated their pain on a scale of zero to 100, and fatigue on a scale of zero to 10. Follow-up visits were made three days after surgery, and then once a week until the end of three weeks. Data provided by the patients on these follow-up visits was analyzed statistically.

* The demographic and health history, along with the surgical experience of all the patients, was similar.
* Three days after surgery, both the groups had similar pain and fatigue levels. After the first and second week, the mean pain score of the group that was administered with curcumin was 15; while the mean pain score of the placebo group was 30, significantly higher than the curcumin group. All the patients were completely relieved of pain after the third week.
* The fatigue score after the first week for the curcumin group was about 2.16; while it was higher at 5.16 for the placebo group. The fatigue scores after the second and third week for the curcumin group were 1 and zero, respectively; while the scores for the placebo group were 4.2 and 1.
* The curcumin group needed fewer painkillers than the placebo group.

Shortcomings/Next steps
The patients came from an area where turmeric is routinely used in the diet. The sample size was small. The patients were asked to consume a spice-free diet during the study; however, no probing questions were asked to confirm the lack of turmeric in their diet. It is necessary to conduct future studies in a more diverse group having a significantly large sample size.

Laparoscopic surgery is favored because, as reported by patients, postoperative recovery is faster. Though the surgical removal of the gallbladder has become less painful with laparoscopic techniques, postoperative pain and fatigue remain major problems, sometimes even leading to the need for an attendant. The pain is due to inflammation caused by an increase in certain factors like cytokines and C-reactive proteins in the blood. Curcumin has been shown to reduce inflammation by functioning at a molecular level in the living cells. Through this study, it is confirmed that curcumin is instrumental in relieving pain and reducing fatigue in patients after the laparoscopic removal of the gallbladder. It is naturally found in turmeric, which is inexpensive and palatable and a good alternative for expensive painkillers.

For More Information:
Efficacy of Turmeric (Curcumin) in Pain and Postoperative Fatigue After Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy: A Double-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Study
Publication Journal: Surgical Endoscopy, June 2011
By Krishna Adit Agarwal; C. D. Tripathi; Vardhman Mahavir Medical College, New Delhi, India

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *