After Bariatric Surgery
If you are reading this and have undergone a bariatric procedure, congratulations! You have made a very important step in changing your life for the better. But as you probably know, your journey has just begun, and what you do over the next few months and years will be critical to your long-term success and weight loss results. Your surgeon will have provided you with details on what to expect and what they expect from you over the next couple of years. So please use the guide below as a complement to — not a replacement of, your post-surgical guidelines.
Recovery: What you do in the first days and weeks after surgery will contribute to your long-term success. Follow your doctor’s orders carefully and remember the following:
Hospital Stay: Depending on the procedure, your operation may be performed on an outpatient basis or you may have to stay in the hospital for a couple of nights (if no complications). During your recovery, you will be expected to do plenty of walking to increase your circulation and help speed up your recovery. More on Hospital Stays.
Wound care: You will receive a complete set of instructions on how to care for your wounds. Be sure that you wash your hands before handling the wound. When treating the wound and changing the dressing, be mindful of any strangely colored discharge or smells. If you notice either, call your surgeon immediately – this could be a sign of an infection. More on Wound Care
If you experience an emergency, go to your nearest ER or call 9-1-1 immediately. For less urgent issues, call your surgeon as soon as possible. The sooner you catch a problem, the less damage may be done.
Disease Resolution: The main objective for undergoing weight loss surgery is the improvement or resolution of co-morbidities or diseases that have developed as a result of morbid obesity. Over the long term, you should hope to reduce your dependence on the medications being utilized to treat these diseases. You should also be able to enjoy becoming more mobile. More Information on Disease Resolution after Bariatric Surgery.
Weight Loss: Immediately After Surgery: You will begin losing weight immediately after surgery, partly because of the restriction and/or malabsorption aspects provided by the surgical procedure, and partly because of the strict post-operative liquid diet program you will be started on immediately after surgery.
Long-Term: Long-term weight loss will depend on you following recommended lifestyle changes. If for some reason you are not losing weight, speak to your surgeon and/or dietitian who will evaluate your eating habits and determine the best plan of care for continued surgical weight loss and success.
Diet: After bariatric surgery, you will be placed on a strict dietary regimen. You will begin with a clear liquid diet, after which you will likely be advanced to progressively more solid diets. Eventually, you will resume normal food, but in lesser quantity, about six weeks after surgery. More on Diet After Weight Loss Surgery.
Bariatric Friendly Recipes: Eating well and receiving good nutrition after surgery is a key to success. More on Bariatric Friendly Recipes after Surgery.
Nutritional Supplementation: Nutritional supplementation is important and necessary after surgery. You will work with your surgeon and/or dietitian to develop a supplementation plan that will work hand in hand with your diet, ensuring that you receive the proper nutritional intake for healthy weight loss. More about Nutritional Supplementation.
Exercise: Exercise is critical to recovery immediately after surgery and is an important part of your lifestyle change and weight loss success in the long term. The physical therapist or exercise specialist assigned to you after surgery will help develop an exercise plan to strengthen your muscles and maintain bone health and density. To learn more about exercise after bariatric surgery, click here.
Going Back to Work: Depending on the weight loss procedure you undergo, you may be able to return to work within a few weeks (according to your surgeon’s protocol) from discharge. The amount of time spent recovering will be dependent on how strenuous your job is and whether your work requires heavy lifting. For more information on going back to work, click here.
Sex: You should be able to resume normal sexual activity at some point after surgery. Your surgeon will give you a concrete timeline, depending on your recovery. More on Sex after Weight Loss Surgery.
Hair Loss: You may lose some hair or experience hair thinning after surgery. This side effect is usually a temporary condition and may reverse itself after weight loss stabilizes. More on Hair Loss after Bariatric Surgery.
Pregnancy: Pregnancy is possible after bariatric surgery, however, most patients should wait for their doctor’s clearance before becoming pregnant. The amount of time to wait for pregnancy should be determined by your surgeon and is usually based on your recovery and weight loss progress. More on Pregnancy after Bariatric Surgery.
Psychological Considerations: The psychological and emotional changes that may occur after weight loss surgery can be significant. Patients are encouraged to seek psychological support to ensure successful adjustment after surgery. More on Psychological Considerations after Bariatric Surgery.
Support Groups: Support Groups are extremely important to positive and successful adjustment after long-term weight loss. Most bariatric programs will have a comprehensive support group program. During these sessions, patients will learn tips and tricks to help with weight loss and overcome any emotional, psychological, or social hurdles that may occur. Becoming an active participant in a Bariatric Support Group is also a great way to meet new friends and create lifelong relationships. More about Support Groups and Finding a Support Group Near You.
Weight Regain: Weight regain is not uncommon after surgery. Depending on the procedure, some weight regain is perfectly normal. However, a great deal of weight gain may be a sign of a complication or of poor diet. Patients should seek the guidance of their surgeon and/or dietitian as soon as possible so the weight gain can be corrected and stopped. More on Weight Regain after Bariatric Surgery.
1Buchwald H, Avidor Y, Braunwald E, et al. Bariatric surgery. A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2004;292:1724-1737.