What Comes Next
You’ve decided to go ahead with gastric sleeve surgery. You’ve selected the best bariatric surgeon. You’ve sat down and discussed all of your options. You’re aware of the pre-op requirements and the possible complications. You’ve scheduled the surgery. Now what?
First Things First: What Is Bariatric Surgery?
If you’ve already set a date, you undoubtedly know that bariatric surgery is another word for weight loss surgery. You probably also know that gastric sleeve surgery involves removing a portion of the stomach.
Perhaps you chose this relatively new procedure because it requires less maintenance than other types of bariatric surgery, or because the risk of complication is lower. If so, you’re not alone. A relatively simple and safe technique, gastric sleeve surgery has, in recent years, become increasingly attractive to patients and bariatric doctors alike.
Managing Your Expectations
All of that being said, it is a surgery. Like all surgeries, it involves a good deal of preparation beforehand. Your body will also need time to heal afterward. Knowing what to do before you go into the operating room and what to expect after they’ve wheeled you out is key to a successful operation, as is choosing the right surgeon.
That’s because the chances of a favorable outcome and a speedy recovery increase substantially when you select a preeminent bariatric surgeon like Brian Mirza, MD, FACS. With 15 years of experience and thousands of successful surgeries under his belt, Dr. Mirza is both well-respected and highly experienced. When it comes to a successful weight loss journey, knowing you’re in capable hands is at least half of the battle.
An operation can be nerve-wracking. Recovery can be difficult. Adjusting to your new life may prove more challenging than you first expected. Nevertheless, with the proper expectations and the best bariatric surgery team on your side, you’ll be able to handle the transition with flying colors. Here’s what awaits you should you choose to go ahead with the surgery.
The Recovery Process
Important Note: This is a general guide designed to give you an overall sense of the recovery process, not an individually tailored piece of advice. Each patient is unique. No one responds to pain in the same way. Medications have different effects on different bodies. Emotions vary among people, as do overall health and activity levels.
Finally, some weight loss procedures lead to complications that can prolong recovery times and increase pain levels. When you meet with Dr. Mirza for a consultation, you’ll be able to discuss your particular needs in detail.
Day Zero: What to Expect When You Wake Up
Upon waking, you’ll find yourself in a hospital bed. You’ll probably be disoriented. The grogginess will slowly lift as the general anesthesia wears off, but you’ll most likely spend the rest of the day in a bit of a fog. Nausea is also a common complaint.
- How will I feel? Depending on how alert you are, you may experience a variety of different sensations and emotions. Don’t be surprised if you feel a wave of relief wash over you. After all, you’ve gone through a major surgical procedure and come out the other side. It’s also not unusual to feel confused, worried, or upset. You may even question your decision to have surgery at this point. Don’t worry. Such turmoil is natural after undergoing a life-changing medical procedure.
- How much pain will I be in? When you first wake up, you won’t feel much pain, as you’ll still be under the effects of the anesthesia. As it wears off, the pain may rise to moderate levels. Since you’ll still be connected to an IV, it will be easy enough for the attending nurses to introduce more medication when and if you need it.
- Can I eat? No. You may not eat for the entire day after the surgery. The good news is that most patients feel no hunger at all, given the removal of the stomach and the copious amounts of medication.
- Can I drink? No. You won’t be able to drink, either, at least until the following day. Your surgeon doesn’t want anything to travel down into your stomach on that first day, and that means nothing goes in through the mouth. This is perhaps the most difficult part of the initial post-op period. You might feel thirsty and dehydrated. To ease the discomfort, some doctors allow their patients to swab their mouth with water or use glycerine swabs.
- Can I walk around? Yes. In many cases, doctors advise their patients to get some movement during that first day. As soon as you’re able to stand, the nurses may want you to walk around the room a bit, and then in the hallway, Doing so may be difficult at first, but this activity can reduce pain in the long-term, reduces the risk of any blood clots, improve your breathing, and facilitate the return of bowels function.
Day One: What to Expect After Surgery
The first few days after the operation are some of the most critical and the most difficult. While different people have different experiences, there are some common concerns among all bariatric surgery patients.
- Will I be able to go home now? Different doctors have different post-op procedures. Some surgeons perform sleeve surgeries as outpatient procedures, meaning they let their patients leave the hospital the same day (we do not recommend that). Others prefer to keep their patients under observation for at least a few days (between one and two days is typical). If you’re under medical supervision, you may spend the day after surgery undergoing a few basic tests.
- How do I manage the pain? Whether you’re still in the hospital or not, the anesthesia will have worn off by the first day. That means the pain in your abdomen may escalate. But generally it is mild to moderate, and very easy to control with oral liquid pain medications that your doctor has prescribed you.
- What can I eat and drink? You’ll be able to start ingesting food and drink now. Your doctor will only permit you to drink clear liquids, though. Your diet will most likely be restricted to liquid foods such as broth, milk, and juice. Whatever you do, stay away from caffeine, which can aggravate your dehydration.
Week One: What to Expect After You Return Home
After you return home, life will be easier day by day. It will be a week before you can resume your normal routine, and you’ll have to adjust your daily schedule to meet your needs.
- Will there still be pain? Yes, but it is very easy to control with liquid pain medications when needed. Most patients report no need to take any pain medications beyond the second or third day after surgery. Be diligent about taking your medication, and follow your doctor’s recommendations.
- What can I eat? At this point, you’ll probably still be on a liquid diet. It’s critical that you follow your doctor’s advice at this point, since eating the wrong foods too soon can cause serious complications.
- Can I go back to work? The typical leave time is 7-10 days. unless your work is very demanding and involves major physical activities; such as heavy lifting, pulling, pushing, in that case, you will need longer time off work. Your doctor during your follow up visit after bariatric surgery will go over that in details, you could help him or her by bringing to your visit your job description, let him or her know about your job responsibilities.
Month One: What to Expect as You Resume Your Normal Life
Within the first month, you should begin to return to business as usual. Of course, with such a life-altering procedure, adjustments will need to be made. You’ll have to get used to life after the gastric sleeve surgery. That may take time and mental strength.
- Will I see weight loss? Most people begin to shed the pounds within the first few weeks after undergoing weight loss procedures. and continue to lose an average of 2-4 Lbs. per week for 6-12 months.
- Can I eat normally? Pureed foods are started usually about two weeks after surgery. That means no solid pieces, only mashed up edibles. By the end of the month, you should be able to move on to soft foods.
- Can I wear smaller clothes? As your body heals and you lose weight, you’ll be able to buy smaller sizes and tighter fits, but, for now, comfort should be your first concern. That means loose clothing. It won’t squeeze your body or rub against the incision wounds.
- Can I exercise? Walking is good during the first few weeks. After the month is over, your doctor may approve more rigorous physical activities.
Year One: What to Expect as You Move Forward
By the end of the first year, you should be adjusting well to your new life and a slimmer waistline. That doesn’t mean the journey is over, however. There are still important things to consider.
- How much weight will I lose? Weight loss varies, depending on a number of factors, including height, lifestyle, diet, and exercise habits. On average, people who undergo gastric sleeve surgery shed up to 60 percent of their excess weight. Research shows that the success rate increases as people meet regularly with their medical team and make critical lifestyle changes.
- Can I resume a normal diet? If by “normal” you mean the diet you were eating before surgery, then probably not. Since your stomach is smaller, you’ll want to eat smaller portion sizes, and, since the quantity of food has decreased, the quality should increase. That means nutrient-dense food instead of junk and filler foods. Talk with your bariatric doctor for more specific guidelines.
- Will my health improve? The vast majority of people reap significant health benefits from bariatric surgery. From an 89 percent reduction in the 5-year death rate to an 83 percent reduction in type 2 diabetes cases, the benefits are almost hard to believe.
Gastric sleeve surgery can be a long and involved process. At times, it can be extremely difficult. The key is to select the best bariatric surgeon and maintain realistic expectations. If you do, you can rest easy knowing that you’re taking major steps toward a healthier body.
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