Weight loss surgery is an invasive procedure that requires a recovery period. However, it may not be as extensive as you think. In this blog, we will discuss what to expect from the recovery process after weight loss surgery. The recommendations we make in this article apply to all of the weight loss surgery procedures and largely apply to any surgical operation. We want to stress that what we recommend in this article is what we generally tell our patients; however, this may not be consistent with what your surgeon or program recommends.
Recovery Process after Weight Loss Surgery: Immediately After Surgery
The recovery process after weight loss surgery is pretty short. Most patients only stay one night in the hospital; they get discharged a day after the operation and resume regular activities right away. We usually ask patients to walk around the facility an hour after the surgery to limit the risk of blood clots.
When you leave the hospital, you will be given a bunch of paperwork. Most patients will tend to ignore some, or all, of this paper. However, it will contain your doctors' specific recommendations and follow-up instructions, so please pay attention to your nurse's discharge instructions and the discharge paperwork you are sent home with. If you don't understand why you are being told to do/not do something, please ask before disregarding the instructions.
Recovery Process after Weight Loss Surgery: 2 to 4 Weeks Post Op
You will want to start regularly exercising two weeks after your bariatric procedure. During that first week, you will be able to do exercises with your arms using a light dumbbells. You should be able to walk up and down a flight of stairs. Full recovery and exercises without restrictions will begin four weeks after the operation. If you're looking for what exercises would work best for your routine, we have weight loss surgery exercises readily available for you to download.
We usually recommend avoiding driving during the first week after surgery. Driving and operating heavy machinery when taking narcotic medications, including hydrocodone, oxycodone, and Dilaudid, is not recommended.
Incisions tend to oscillate between five and seven incisions. The biggest one is usually about 1.5 centimeters. Early signs of wound infection include increasing pain at the site, redness, and swelling, drainage from the incision is expected (thin and transparent in color).
Depending on your surgeon, you may have the incisions covered with a bit of plastic dressing with a white sponge or, other times, with a bit of glue. If you have the bond, there’s nothing you need to do. You can shower starting day one, and the glue will fall off on its own.
If you have the plastic dressing, it can be peeled off like a Band-Aid about 24 to 48 hours after the operation, depending on your surgeon’s advice. Then after you remove the dressing, sometimes the skin has tiny tapes holding the skin together called steri strips. These are waterproof and soap-proof, so continue to bathe as usual, and the steri strips will fall off by themselves.
A common problem with wound care is over-cleaning the site of the wound. Avoid scrubbing or removing scabs. You don’t need to wash with alcohol or peroxide either. We also recommend staying away from putting any cream or moisturizer over the incisions.
Final Tips to Improve Your Recovery Process after Weight Loss Surgery
Follow-up after weight loss surgery is essential to the recovery process after weight loss surgery. In the short term, follow-up ensures that your recovery is healthy and you are advancing through your diet as expected. We worry about early complications, although rare, it is much better to pick up on early warning signs before a patient becomes ill. If you feel well and your incisions look good, an appointment may seem like a waste of time. But nothing could be further from the truth. At your initial post-op follow-up visit, we will ask you how you feel and look for other things that you may not think are important but could be early warning signs.
Additionally, during the early postoperative period, we adjust our patient’s medications. Most of the time, we are discontinuing medications that our patients take (hypertensive and diabetic medications); however, at times, we need to add back some of these meds based on how the patient is doing, and this really can only be done during your follow-up visits.