What can I Expect After Bariatric Surgery?

Andrea Sigust

Bariatric surgery is usually takes two to two-and-a-half hours, with a post-operative recovery room period of two to three hours. You generally will be able to start drinking water within three days of surgery and remain on a liquid diet for about two weeks after surgery. The average hospital stay for the surgery is five to seven days. You also can expect to be advised to make certain changes to your diet and activity levels after bariatric surgery.

Bariatric surgery is an operation that facilitates weight loss.
Bariatric surgery is an operation that facilitates weight loss.

This type of surgery facilitates weight loss through one of several abdominal procedures. The surgery is performed on obese patients whose recommended body mass index (BMI) is 35-40, or 30-35 for patients who have substantial coexisting medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease. The most common procedures for bariatric surgery include gastric bypass, the gastric sleeve and the gastric band.

Most bariatric patients are able to start drinking water a few days after surgery.
Most bariatric patients are able to start drinking water a few days after surgery.

Gastric bypass involves creating a small pouch in the upper part of the stomach and redirecting the small intestines to that pouch. The gastric sleeve is a procedure that vertically removes about 85 percent of the stomach, giving it sleeve-like appearance. The gastric band is a silicone rubber band that is placed around the upper part of the stomach, creating a small stomach pouch. The goal of each of these options is to reduce the size of the stomach, thus reducing the amount of food that can be consumed and absorbed, which ultimately causes weight loss.

Some of the biggest adjustments that you will need to make after bariatric surgery are dietary changes. After the initial liquid diet, you can gradually introduce solid and new foods into your regular diet over the course of eight weeks. Your stomach size will have been dramatically reduced, so only minute food portions can be tolerated, but by the sixth month, child-size meals can be easily consumed.

Overall, you should always avoid high-sugar and high-fat foods and drinks, such as non-diet sodas, undiluted fruit juices or milkshakes, which trigger what is called “the dumping syndrome.” This is caused by a chemical imbalance that the small intestine rapidly tries to correct by expelling the food or drink catalysts. During this process, the patient experiences a quick onset of cramps, heart palpitations, sweating and possibly vomiting and diarrhea.

Just as your diet is gradually changed and increased after bariatric surgery, so should your activity level. After bariatric surgery, you will need assistance when leaving the hospital and also at home for as long as several weeks, depending on your rate of recovery. Assistance is generally needed for dressing, driving and preparing meals. Patients usually resume driving within two weeks and return to normal activity levels within eight weeks.

Post-operative follow-up is a critical factor in success after bariatric surgery. This aftercare includes monitoring and nutritional counseling to avoid nutritional deficiencies, weight regain and potential illness or complications. Also, after significant weight-loss, many patients have excess skin that can cause emotional or physical distress. Counseling that provides solution options for that dynamic is also a part of post-operative follow-up care.

A scalpel is a small, sharp knife that is used in surgeries to make incisions.
A scalpel is a small, sharp knife that is used in surgeries to make incisions.

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