weight loss surgery recoveryWe focus a lot on weight loss surgery itself — which one you will have, how to prepare, what happens during the surgery. But even before you get to this point, it’s important to think about recovery. What will that be like, and what should you expect? 

Whether you are having gastric sleeve surgery, gastric bypass, or the LAP-BAND, there will be differences with each one. But many things regarding recovery will be the same. Since we take a minimally invasive approach to all surgeries when possible, this does often mean a quicker and easier recovery regardless of surgery type.

What to Expect from Weight Loss Surgery Recovery

Immediately After Surgery

Some insurance companies require a one-night stay in the hospital after sleeve gastrectomy. However, if you’re not paying with insurance, sleeve gastrectomy will be performed in our outpatient surgery center, and you’ll go home the same day. During your time in the hospital, you will be monitored by staff, and once you are meeting the requirements set forth by our surgeon, you will be allowed to return home to continue your recovery process. 

If you’re having gastric sleeve surgery, we’ll go ahead and start you on the liquid diet immediately after surgery. If you have a gastric bypass, we will start you on a liquid diet the morning after surgery once you have an upper GI study. This swallowing study simply follows the bypass down to make sure there are no leaks or obstructions. As long as there are no issues, we’ll start you on the liquid diet following this test.

Before you leave the hospital, you will be given care instructions as well as a diet plan to follow. After undergoing a major surgery and consuming very few calories, it’s normal to feel exhausted. Your body will devote most of its energy to healing, so plan on resting quite a bit the first few days back home. 

Take into consideration the layout of your home. Are there stairs? If so, will you have to climb steps to get to your bedroom? How easy is it to get to the bathroom? While light activities like brief walks are recommended, climbing stairs and standing or walking for too long can be challenging so it is important to consider these questions ahead of time. 

Post-Surgery Diet

Just after surgery, you’ll be on a clear liquid diet, and you will advance to full liquids at different times depending on the procedure you had. After full liquids, you will advance your diet slowly by introducing soft foods, or foods of a creamy consistency, over the following weeks. After four weeks, you can start introducing meats and other foods that are a part of your normal diet.

The reason for this slow progression is that we don’t want to irritate the stomach after surgery. Liquids and soft foods are really easy for the stomach to break down so that it doesn’t irritate the healing process. This diet just gives the stomach the time it needs to heal.

Post-Surgery Restrictions

Until four weeks post-surgery, you shouldn’t lift anything over 10 lbs. We also don’t want you doing anything like sit ups that could strain the abdominal wall. This limitation is to help you avoid developing a hernia at any of the incision sites. After four weeks, we typically feel safe with you doing most exercises since everything should be healed enough that you won’t do any damage.

Returning to Work

After gastric sleeve surgery, most patients can return to work within one week, and some patients return to work within 3 to 4 days. However, there are different factors that contribute to how quickly you can begin working again, including: 

  • Type of work – Returning to a desk job is much different than returning to a job in construction. The physical demands and level of activity required to do your job will affect the amount of time you will need to take off. 
  • Overall healing process – Everyone heals differently and at their own pace. Returning to work is dependent on how your individual recovery goes and if you experience any complications that can cause the healing process to take longer.

Common Challenges

Post-surgery side effects will vary and most go away over time, but adjusting to the new diet and lifestyle brings its own set of challenges. 

Here are a few things you may experience while recovering:

  • Nausea – After surgery, you will have to re-learn how and what to eat. Your stomach will be a fraction of the size it used to be. As you gradually begin incorporating more food, especially solid food, you will have to determine what your stomach can handle. Eating or drinking too much or too fast can result in nausea or vomiting.  
  • Feeling weak – Consuming less calories can cause you to feel weak or tired. As your body adjusts to the new diet, this feeling should dissipate. 
  • Aches and pains – It is normal to experience some discomfort during your recovery process; however, aches and pains should lessen as time goes on. If pain continues or gets worse, you should talk to us about possible causes and pain relief options.
  • Digestive irregularities – You may experience side effects like constipation, diarrhea, and gurgling noises coming from your stomach. These symptoms are usually diet-related and will improve over time.
  • Temporary hair loss and skin changes – Experiencing hair loss after surgery can be alarming, but it is temporary. The initial low calorie intake and rapid weight loss can cause hair thinning, as well as hormonal changes which can contribute to changes in skin texture and acne. To minimize these effects, take a multivitamin regularly and make sure you are consuming enough daily protein based on your diet plan.  

Long-term Success After Weight Loss Surgery

There is a difference between returning to everyday activities and full recovery. As time passes after your surgery, you will gradually be able to begin eating more and taking on a more active lifestyle. Within a few weeks, you should start to feel less tired and get back into your normal routine. However, your stomach will still be healing. 

On average, it takes about 2 to 3 weeks for the incisions to heal and 6 to 8 weeks for the stomach staple line to heal. After one month, most people can begin a normal exercise routine and are well on the way to being fully recovered.

The patients that take their medications as prescribed and stick with the diet after surgery are the ones we’ve seen be the most successful. We’ve also found that patients who seek out support are also more likely to lose the weight and keep it off. 

While weight loss surgery is quite an undertaking, both physically and mentally, the payoff can be bigger than you’ve ever dreamed. While most of our patients wish they’d done the surgery sooner, it’s never too late to get back to a healthy weight and get your life back.   

Find out more about the weight loss surgery options at Birmingham Minimally Invasive Surgery.

The caring group of professionals at Birmingham Minimally Invasive Surgery will help you get started on your weight loss journey and stay with you every step along the way. Dr. Long and his team specialize in all types of bariatric surgery, including gastric sleeve surgery, gastric bypass, and the LAP-BAND. Visit us today at http://www.bmisurgery.com/ or give us a call to set up a consultation at 205-833-6907.