Gastric sleeve recovery is different for each person who undergoes the procedure. A lot depends on your body, lifestyle, and whether any complications develop during or after surgery.
However, it typically takes four to six weeks. During that period, the pain gradually goes away with the help of medication, and the patient slowly transitions from drinking clear liquids to eating solid foods.
Recovery is also marked by a slow return to regular activity and exercise. If you’re thinking about undergoing a gastric sleeve procedure or you’ve recently had surgery, here’s what you can expect.
Gastric sleeve surgery is designed to help patients lose significant weight when other methods haven’t worked. Not only does this improve quality of life, but it also reduces the risk of obesity-related health conditions. The procedure involves removing a portion of the stomach to reduce the amount of food that can be eaten. Because it’s a surgical procedure, you should understand the recovery process beforehand to know what to expect.
Coming out of anesthesia is the first stage in recovering from gastric sleeve surgery. Most patients get general anesthesia with volatile anesthetics and neuromuscular blockade which has been linked to an increased risk of respiratory complications in individuals with morbid obesity.
Also, people who undergo bariatric surgery can take longer to become conscious and aware because the anesthetic gets stored in fat. However, recovery from anesthesia should still occur immediately given the recommendations for anesthetists involved in bariatric procedures.
Pain management is another major concern right after surgery. Patients tend to experience pain radiating from the incision sites, especially the one that was made to allow the resected part of the stomach to be removed. However, pain medicine is administered via IV in hospital.
What you do in the first week after surgery will help to set you up for long-term success. There is an established Enhanced Recovery After Bariatric Surgery Protocol which will likely start in the hospital.
You will only be discharged from the hospital when you no longer need fluids via IV and you can manage an oral liquid protein diet.
In Stage 1 of this four-stage diet, it’s important to consume at least 64 ounces of liquid per day, take in adequate protein and electrolytes, and use powdered multivitamins.
After two weeks, the incisions should be completely healed. You’ll need to moisturize the area frequently to reduce scarring and apply sunscreen if the scars will be exposed to the sun.
Immediately following surgery, you will be monitored but may be allowed to leave the same day as the procedure. Following your bariatric surgeon’s directions carefully ensures the best chances of a smooth recovery. It’s important to call if you experience any concerning side effects or if you have questions about your recovery.
It’s also important to know when it’s an emergency, and you should call for help. This includes more than expected pain, bloody stools, fever, or any other signs of infection. Call as soon as you notice any of these symptoms for the best results.
After surgery, you will be on a restricted diet. Immediately following the procedure, you will only be allowed to consume liquids. Options include water, decaffeinated tea or coffee, and other sugar-free drinks. You may be able to handle broth as well. Avoid alcohol or carbonated beverages, as they can slow the healing process.
After a few days, you will likely be able to add solid foods back into your meal plan. Eating only what your surgeon recommends is important to speed the healing process and prevent potential problems. Good options include mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, and cooked hot cereal like oatmeal.
Long-term, gastric sleeve surgery will limit the quantity of food you can eat. This reduces your overall calorie intake and leads to weight loss. The surgery is permanent, and going forward, you should aim to eat five or six small meals per day rather than three larger ones. This helps you get the right amount of nutrients with your new smaller stomach.
You should also avoid processed foods, such as packaged snacks, desserts, and potato chips. These items are low in nutrients but high in fat and calories and don’t have a place in a healthy weight loss diet. Instead, focus on whole foods that satisfy your nutrient needs for fewer calories.
You may need to take vitamins or supplements to fill in nutrient gaps because you cannot eat as much as the average person after gastric sleeve surgery. Follow your surgeon’s directions carefully to ensure that you are getting the most out of any vitamins or supplements that are recommended.
Going forward, engaging in an appropriate amount of healthy physical activity and making nutritious and balanced eating choices is recommended. It’s also essential to attend all of your post-operative appointments. This allows your surgeon to monitor your recovery and make changes to your routine if they are necessary. It also makes it more likely that potential problems can be caught early so they don’t hinder your recovery. Provided you follow recovery guidelines, you can expect to lose 30 to 60 percent of your excess weight in the months following your surgery.
What we’ve discussed above is a general timeline so your recovery process may not be exactly the same. You’ll work with your surgeon to determine if any modifications need to be made. The important thing is to take the process one step at a time and follow the advice of your doctors.
If you experience challenges, be sure to seek help. Meanwhile, if you haven’t yet undergone surgery, reach out to Renew Bariatrics to learn about your weight loss options.
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