How Long Does It Take to Recover After Weight Loss Surgery?
Minimally invasive techniques for weight loss surgery result in a shorter recovery period. Here’s what patients need to know about achieving long-term success.
People decide to undergo weight loss (or “bariatric”) surgery for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s boosting their confidence or helping them manage health problems like type 2 diabetes, weight loss procedures like gastric bypass and gastric sleeve can do a great deal to improve a patient’s quality of life.
However, potential patients may be concerned about the recovery period after bariatric surgery, and whether they will be able to maintain their weight loss over the long term. This guide outlines what patients can expect in the weeks and months following weight loss surgery, and what they can do to achieve long-lasting results.
What Is the Recovery Period Like?
Most weight loss surgery is laparoscopic, meaning it is minimally invasive. In these procedures, the surgeon makes several tiny incisions instead of a major cut, resulting in less pain and a shorter recovery time. Patients generally stay in the hospital for two to three days before returning home. Many are able to go back to work within one to two weeks, but may struggle with low energy at first.
Patients will often begin their exercise regimen while they are still in the hospital. Recovery will start with short walks and gentle, low-impact activities. Provided they take things slowly, patients can generally play sports or lift weights within the first month, and return to all regular activities shortly thereafter. They should be sure to build the intensity level of these activities gradually over several weeks.
What Are the Possible Complications?
Most people complete weight loss surgery with little to no problems. Less than eight percent of patients experience complications, the majority of which are fairly minor. The most common problems include constipation, dumping syndrome (when high-sugar foods rush through the stomach causing nausea, vomiting, and weakness), and gallstones.
Fortunately, most of these complications can be managed by carefully controlling one’s diet and avoiding certain foods. In the case of gallstones, surgery may be recommended to remove the stones if they are causing other symptoms, however gallstones are generally harmless and may not require treatment at all.
Achieving Long-Term Success
Patients can experience dramatic physical and psychological improvements after bariatric surgery, from substantial weight loss to the elimination of potentially serious conditions like sleep apnea. However, maintaining these benefits over the long term takes commitment and, in many cases, not insignificant lifestyle changes.
After their weight loss surgery, patients should eat small, regular meals, as the reduced stomach created by bariatric surgery can only handle a small amount of food at a time. Larger meals or binge eating can create uncomfortable digestive problems and undo some of the progress that has been made.
Patients should consult with a nutritionist after their surgery in order to develop a healthy eating plan that will work for them. It’s also important that they focus on getting all the vitamins and minerals they need, as weight loss surgery can cause deficiencies in nutrients like iron, folate, calcium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.
Exercise is another essential piece of the puzzle, as it helps keep weight off and increases a patient’s motivation to make real changes to their lifestyle. Many patients find they enjoy exercise more after surgery, as it often becomes far easier than before. Weight loss can also alleviate joint pain, opening the door to a range of new activities.
If you’re considering bariatric surgery or are interested in learning more about the post-op recovery process, sign up for a free 10-minute call, or schedule an appointment with Long Island Laparoscopic Doctors today.