Your recovery after gastric bypass surgery should take between 3-6 weeks. You can optimize your recovery by strictly adhering to the instructions from your medical team.
You need to start moving around early on in your recovery to reduce your chance of developing complications and hasten your recovery time. A life-long commitment to a healthy diet and frequent exercise is essential to maintain weight loss.
This article will prepare you for what to expect after having weight loss surgery. You will learn what activities you should or should not be doing in the recovery period. You will also learn about what complications may potentially develop and how to look out for them.
What Can I Expect After Gastric Bypass Surgery?
Recovery in the Hospital
Patients usually spend around 2-3 days in the hospital after having Bariatric Surgery. It may be up to 5 days or longer if complications develop. Most procedures are done laparoscopically and usually have shorter hospital stays.
Your surgeon and the nurses at the hospital will ensure that your recovery is quick and relatively pain-free. The nurses will monitor your blood pressure, breathing, and temperature and look out for any signs of complications.
Alert the nurses if you experience any adverse symptoms such as:
- Swelling in the legs
- Shortness of breath
Symptoms like nausea, vomiting, surgical incision pain, tiredness, and
weakness may be normal after a major operation like Bariatric Surgery. If these symptoms become excessive or concern you then you must report this to your medical team.
Pain must be adequately managed to ensure timely recovery. Mild pain at the surgical incision site and sometimes neck or shoulder pain is normal after surgery. Internal pain in the stomach or intestines due to excessive gas is also a normal occurrence.
You will be able to control your pain with a mechanism known as “patient-controlled analgesia” (PCA). This system allows you to self-administer pain medication with the click of a button.
Well-controlled pain will allow you to get out of bed as soon as possible.
Walking around soon after surgery will hasten your recovery time and help to prevent blood clots. You can practice leg exercises while lying in bed before you are strong enough to walk around.
The nurses at the hospital will teach you a specific way to breathe deeply and cough. Effective breathing and coughing loosen secretions in the lungs to prevent an infection like pneumonia.
Recovery at Home
You will be discharged home after a couple of days in the hospital. Your medical team will discuss dietary instructions, activities you should do, and activities you should avoid.
Discuss your home environment with the surgeon or nurses about accessibility, safety, or other concerns. Your home should be comfortable enough to recover effectively from this major surgery.
You will need someone to help you with your hygiene and activities of daily living immediately after returning home. Discuss the possibility of a home care nurse if you live alone or do not have someone who can care for you at home.
You must remain well hydrated by drinking up to 2 liters of water per day. This may be difficult but small, frequent sips of water will make this easier. Staying hydrated will also help you to avoid ending back in the hospital.
The wound site, especially if laparoscopic surgery was done, will not need extensive care. Try to keep the wound site clean and dry to prevent infection. If you notice swelling, redness, or pus notify your surgeon immediately.
After surgery, you will need to go to the bathroom up to three times per day to empty your bowels. The stools that you pass may be foul-smelling and associated with flatulence.
This is due to the shortened bowel following surgery. These bowel symptoms should resolve after your body adapts to the gastrointestinal changes.
If you notice a bulge in your abdomen that was not there before the surgery, this could be a hernia. When part of your intestine bulges out through the weakened area of skin at the site of the surgical incision, a hernia can occur.
Avoid lifting heavy objects for around three months after surgery to decrease your risk of developing a hernia.
When Can I Resume my Regular Activities?
You will feel weak and tired for a few weeks after surgery. Start with light physical activity, like walking as soon as possible. The more active you are, the faster your recovery will be. As always, it is recommended to check in with your practitioner as every bariatric patient can have different needs.
- Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time. Try to gradually increase the distance that you walk every day.
- Avoid any strenuous activity for between three to six weeks after surgery. Do not lift any heavy objects or push/pull heavy loads.
- Avoid becoming pregnant after gastric bypass for at least 12-18 months or based on the recommendations of your bariatric team.
When Can I Return to Work?
This can vary for each individual and it depends on the type of work that you do. If you have a desk job, you may be able to work after a week. Jobs that require a lot of physical strength will require you to wait at least a month.
You need to gradually return to work to ease yourself into a routine again. Overexerting yourself by rushing back to normal work may be detrimental to your recovery.
What Complications May I Experience?
Around 7% of people undergoing Gastric Bypass Surgery will have serious complications that may result in reoperation.
Serious complications include:
- Blood in the stool due to internal bleeding (gastric bypass and anemia may be related)
- Blood clots
- Leaks in the new connections made during surgery (gastric bypass revision may be needed)
Almost half of the people undergoing Bariatric Surgery will have some form of common complication.
Common complications include:
- Constipation (usually presents as stomach pains after gastric bypass)
- Infected wounds
- Dumping syndrome may cause nausea and vomiting after a sugary meal
- Gallbladder problems after gastric bypass (gallstones)
You will follow up with your surgeon after 2 weeks, 1 month, and every 3 months for the first year after surgery. After these milestones, you will be required to follow-up annually for life.
Follow-up appointments are necessary in order to check for any complications, track weight loss, and monitor dietary deficiencies.
Life After Bariatric Surgery
Bariatric surgery is only a tool for weight loss. It is your responsibility to dedicated the time and effort to making long-term lifestyle changes in order to optimize your weight loss and overall health after Bariatric Surgery. Weight loss surgery is a big financial decision and you need to ensure that your money is well spent.
Long-term results of gastric bypass are dependent on your actions. You must attend all follow-up visits, exercise regularly, follow the prescribed diet (including bariatric meal replacements and bariatric multivitamins) and address any vitamin deficiencies by taking the appropriate supplements.
Support groups or a gastric bypass forum can be really useful in obtaining information and discussing difficulties with individuals that understand your situation.
**This blog is for information and education purposes only. This information is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions in regards to a medical condition.