“How long is the recovery?” is one of the most frequently asked questions I hear from patients when they’re thinking about weight loss surgery, whether it’s gastric sleeve or gastric bypass procedure. They want to know what to expect – both in the hospital and when they return home.
The length of time you stay in the hospital depends on the type of weight loss procedure you undergo. After the gastric sleeve, I tell patients to expect to stay in the hospital for approximately one day. For the gastric bypass, it’s one to two days. Once out of surgery, patients are encouraged to be up and walking as soon as they are able to do so – usually within a few hours. Moving around and walking helps with overall recovery. Before leaving the hospital our goal is to make sure you are comfortable walking around, drinking fluids and that your pain is controlled.
Some patients may experience pain after surgery. Pain after surgery usually comes from two different sources: incisions in the skin or an internal discomfort that is usually associated with gas. Pain can be difficult to predict as each person has a different threshold. Some patients may experience moderate to low levels of pain while others may experience high levels. NJBC performs weight loss surgery laparoscopically so the incisions are very small. Smaller incisions usually mean less pain, with most patients who experience discomfort report it being gone in three to four days.
Once you leave the hospital it’s important to follow the post-surgery instructions provided. This will help enhance your recovery and minimize complications. At New Jersey Bariatric Center we advise patients to wait at least three to four weeks after surgery before doing any rigorous activity or heavy lifting (no more than fifteen pounds). That’s the average time for the healing of the muscle layers to occur.
Diet and Exercise
The changes to the anatomy of your stomach will require new eating habits. Immediately following surgery you will be on a liquid diet, then move on to soft foods, and finally progressing to regular foods. The general guidelines for the post-operative diet include eating protein first, eating slowly, chewing thoroughly, not drinking fluids while eating, avoiding liquid calories, limiting snacking and learning portion control. Our registered dietitians will provide you with a specific food plan so you know when each of these stages start.
Many New Jersey Bariatric Center patients are able to resume activity and exercise two weeks after surgery. The level of exercise will depend on your physical condition and the nature of the activity. Always start with walking. As you recover, you will be able to do more like walking uphill, walking faster and maybe, eventually running. Exercise is strongly encouraged as it increases your sense of wellbeing and minimizes muscle breakdown. For more information on exercise post-surgery, check out this link.
Resuming Regular Activities
Returning to work
Returning to work will also vary from person to person depending on the type of work you do. If your job involves sitting at a computer or a desk, some of our patients can go back to work three to five days after surgery. If you do strenuous or physical labor as part of your job, it’s best to wait four weeks before returning. You should be physically able to return to work between 1 week and 3 weeks after surgery.
Driving should be avoided until you are no longer taking prescription pain medication and you feel comfortable moving around. If driving is resumed too early, sudden braking or movements may strain your core abdominal wall muscles and can delay recovery. It’s important to give your body time to heal. As you progress in your recovery, start off with short distance, low speed drives and once you feel comfortable extend the distance.
Many patients ask when it would be safe to resume sexual activity after surgery. When patients ask this question there is a general concern about affecting the surgical area and the staples in the abdomen. First, it’s important to give your body time to heal. Generally, sexual activity can be resumed when you feel comfortable doing so. Some patients may be able to engage in sexual activity within a week after weight loss surgery, others may elect to wait a few weeks. Listen to your body and avoid any strenuous activity.
Recovery is different for each person because everyone heals differently, so allow yourself time to adjust to your new lifestyle. New Jersey Bariatric Center staff will be there for you every step of the way. Whenever you have a question or concern, you can always reach out to us for the answers.
Check out our blog for more information on life after bariatric surgery.