What to Expect on the Day of Your Weight Loss Surgery

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Posted: July 22nd, 2019

You’ve made the crucial decision to have weight loss surgery — now it’s time to prepare for your procedure.

You’ve decided to have life-changing weight loss surgery, but now you’re probably wondering what the experience entails. As with any surgery, it’s important to know what to expect before, during, and after the procedure. 

Fortunately, bariatric surgery has been performed safely for many years, and there are clear guidelines for patients to follow. Here’s a timeline of what you can expect as you take the first steps in your weight loss journey. 

Before Your Weight Loss Surgery

In order to prepare your digestive system for the operation, you cannot eat any solid foods for two days before you enter the hospital. During this time, you’ll restrict your diet to clear liquids (beef, chicken, or vegetable broth), tea, water, no-pulp juices, and Jello-O (except the red-colored varieties). 

Your doctor will advise you to refrain from eating or drinking the night before the surgery beginning at midnight. If you take medications for diabetes or hypertension, ask your doctor whether you can take the prescriptions prior to the operation.

The Day of the Procedure

You will be asked to arrive at the hospital at least two hours before your scheduled surgical time. It’s recommended that a family member or friend stay with you to support you through the experience. 

At the hospital, the anesthesiologist and surgeon will discuss your medical history and the details of the procedure with you. As you wait, a nurse will take your vital signs and set up an IV tube to deliver anesthesia, fluids, and medications. 

You may be given an injection in your abdomen to prevent blood clots. Your nurse might also ask you to slip on compression boots to massage your legs and feet. This aids in preventing blood clots as well. 

The Surgery

You will be given anesthesia prior to the surgery. Depending upon the type of procedure, your weight loss surgery could take between one to four hours. For example, a gastric bypass operation takes about four hours, while gastric banding surgery lasts less than one hour.

Immediately after the surgery, you will be monitored in the recovery room for two to three hours. The nursing staff will check your vital signs to see if they are returning to normal and ask whether you’re feeling any pain or nausea.

Post-Operative Guidelines

Most weight loss procedures require you to recover in the hospital for one to three days. Your doctor will visit often to review your progress and make sure your incision is healing properly.

It’s normal to feel pain after surgery, but if you’re experiencing intense pain, the nursing staff will administer medication. To assist in the healing process and prevent blood clots, you’ll be helped to walk as much as possible soon after the surgery. You may also do breathing exercises to keep your lungs clear of fluids.

For the first 24 hours after the procedure, you cannot eat or drink. After a day or so, your food intake will be limited to liquids. This gives your stomach the necessary time to heal. Your surgeon may then perform what is know as a “leak test” after a gastric bypass or sleeve procedure to confirm the stomach staple line is intact.

Coming Home

As you recover from your operation, you will gradually switch your diet from pure liquids to smooth blended liquids with no food chunks. About three weeks after your surgery, you can begin to try solid foods to see which foods you can digest with no side effects. You can start doing light exercises and take a shower five days after the surgery. 

Most people make a full recovery and can return to normal activities within four to six weeks. Your pain will likely have subsided by this time, but if you have any discomfort, you can take over-the-counter pain medication as needed.

Complications

Weight loss surgery carries similar risks to any major surgical procedure. Watch for any signs of infection such as a high fever or excessive redness around the incision. It’s also important to look out for blood clots that may cause swelling and pain in the legs. Another potential complication is a pulmonary embolism (PE). If you experience shortness of breath or chest pain, visit the hospital immediately.

As you recover from your weight loss surgery, you will be in regular contact with your doctor to discuss a diet plan going forward. Some side effects such as nausea and diarrhea are normal and usually related to consuming certain foods that upset your stomach.

One symptom you should look out for is known as “dumping syndrome.” This typically occurs when food, especially sugar-laden products, passes through the stomach and small intestine too quickly, resulting in weakness, dizziness, heart palpitations, and nausea or vomiting. If you experience these symptoms, cut back on sugary foods, fats, and refined carbohydrates. 

If you have any concerns about weight loss surgery, the doctors at Long Island Laparoscopic can answer your questions and give you more information on how to prepare for and recover from the operation. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.