People consider weight loss surgery for several reasons. Bariatric procedures can boost confidence or help manage health problems. Whatever your reason, weight loss surgery can provide significant improvements to your well-being and quality of life. However, the idea of surgery can be a daunting one, and you will likely have questions about the recovery process.
Recovery occurs in several stages, which can happen faster or slower depending on the individual’s health. However, the following outlines the typical recovery experience and what you can expect after weight loss surgery.
Recovery at the Hospital
Some bariatric procedures require a one-to-two-day hospital stay, such as gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy. You can receive other procedures on an outpatient basis, such as the WRAP/gastric plication and gastric ballooning. Most bariatric procedures are laparoscopic, meaning they use small incisions. This helps reduce your hospital stay so you can return home faster.
It’s common to feel incision pain in the immediate recovery process. You may feel neck, shoulder, and gas pain following your procedure as well. Some discomfort is normal, but your medical team will ensure you have access to medication to manage your pain. You should always tell a nurse if your pain is preventing you from breathing deeply, talking, or walking.
On the first day of recovery, you will need to sit up, stand, and walk. The amount of walking you need to perform will increase with each day to promote blood circulation and avoid blood clots. Your surgeon will likely recommend deep breathing exercises and leg exercises you can perform in bed or while sitting.
Recovery at Home
You may find the exercises uncomfortable while at the hospital, but they expedite your recovery. Once your surgeon is happy with your progress, they will discharge you and provide instructions for your diet and physical activity. You will need to ease your way into exercise, as you will tire quickly during the first couple of weeks of recovery. Going for short walks at regular intervals can help improve your stamina while you recover.
The time it takes for you to return to work depends on the bariatric procedure you choose. Most patients return to work within two weeks. However, you may need up to three weeks following gastric bypass surgery. You can drive short distances as soon as you feel strong enough and are no longer on prescription pain medication.
By the six-week mark, you should be walking for a total of at least half an hour per day. You can break this into multiple walks until you have enough endurance to walk for the entire half-hour. Aim to walk at least two miles a day to reach this goal. If walking causes joint pain, water exercise is a great alternative. However, wait until your doctor clears you for pool exercises, which is usually around three weeks post-op.
Recovery and Hygiene
Unless your surgeon tells you otherwise, you can shower like usual after bariatric surgery. However, you should avoid submerging your incisions for the first three weeks, which means no soaking in the tub or swimming. You may need help using the toilet after bariatric surgery. Flushable wet wipes or a peri bottle can help you during your recovery.
Recovery and Infection
Keeping your incisions clean, dry, and uncovered can help prevent infection. If you suspect your sutures are infected, you should call your surgeon right away. Common signs of infection include:
- Redness or red streaks around the incision
- Weeping, malodorous drainage
- Worsening soreness
Do not attempt to treat a suspected infection with antibiotic ointment without the express permission of your doctor. Certain antibiotic ointments can cause irritation, and your doctor will make a recommendation.
You should also call your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Shortness of breath or chest pains
- Red, painful, or swollen legs
- Vomiting longer than 12 hours
- Pain that doesn’t improve with medication
- Urinating less than four times a day
Most patients resume their regular activities around two weeks post-op and achieve a full recovery between four-to-six weeks after surgery. Do you still have questions about the recovery process after bariatric surgery? Contact us to discuss your concerns about weight loss surgery.