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Bariatric Surgery Recovery Time

Bariatric Surgery Recovery Time

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      Weight loss surgery is a significant decision for anyone who is grappling with their weight. One of the biggest questions patients have is bariatric surgery recovery time. While many may wish to speed up the recovery time for weight loss surgery, it is crucial to give your body ample time to heal and adjust to your modified digestive system. Indeed, bariatric surgery recovery is one of the first and most important steps in your weight loss journey.

      What Is The Recovery Time For Bariatric Surgery

      Recovery time from bariatric surgery varies. Every individual is unique and has a unique set of circumstances that may shorten or prolong their recovery time. However, there are specific protocols that all bariatric surgery patients will need to follow for the best results.

      Unless complications arise, most people stay in the hospital between 1-3 days following surgery. The hospital recovery time from bariatric surgery varies by each person and the type of procedure. In short, many bariatric surgery patients have multiple medical conditions that may prolong their hospital stay. Examples of medical conditions that may increase hospital recovery time from bariatric surgery include:

      • Diabetes
      • High blood pressure
      • Heart conditions
      • Infection
      • Respiratory issues
      • Nausea or vomiting
      • Uncontrolled pain

      The average recovery time for bariatric surgery is dependent on the type of procedure your surgeon recommends for you. Indeed, some procedures are more extensive. Consequently, more complicated procedures require more recovery time. The following is a list of the average recovery time for each type of bariatric surgery.

      Picture of a glucose monitor.
      Diabetes and other health conditions may prolong your recovery from bariatric surgery.

      Minimally invasive bariatric surgery recovery time - Most weight loss procedures today are performed using minimally invasive techniques - laparoscopic or robotic. Minimally invasive procedures occur when the surgeon makes small incisions in the skin then uses a camera (laparoscope) and small surgical instruments to perform the procedure.

      In contrast, some people may have a larger incision from open surgery. Indeed, minimally invasive surgery has decreased recovery time as there are many benefits, including less pain and a reduced risk for infection. If you have laparoscopic surgery, your hospital stay will likely be shortened to 1-2 days, assuming there are no complications. Most people return to strenuous activities in 4-5 weeks after laparoscopic bariatric surgery.

      Recovery time after gastric sleeve surgery - Vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG) or gastric sleeve changes the anatomy of the stomach by reducing the stomach size and shape to a small tube. Subsequently, this surgery limits the amount of food you can eat in one sitting. Typically, hospital stay is 1-2 days. Full recovery is about 4-6 weeks before you can resume full activity.

      Recovery time after gastric bypass surgery - Gastric bypass (or Roux-en-y)  procedure bypasses much of the small intestine and reduces the size of the stomach to decrease food intake and reduce nutrient absorption. Interestingly, the procedure also changes the way your digestive hormones work. Therefore, you may experience fullness more quickly and feel less hungry due to changes in hormones. Because the surgery is more complicated and has multiple components, most people stay in the hospital 1-3 days and require between 4-6 weeks to get back to full activity.

      Duodenal switch recovery time - Also known as biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch, or BPD/DS, this less common weight loss surgery is a two-part procedure. Firstly, a gastric sleeve is performed, leaving the stomach in a banana-shaped tube. Secondly, the majority of the small intestine is bypassed to limit nutrient absorption and reduce the amount of food you can eat. Typically, this two-part procedure is performed in one surgery. Hospital recovery time is usually 1-3 days using minimally invasive techniques and between 2-5 days with open surgery. Full recovery usually takes between 4-6 weeks for most people.

      Recovery time after lap band surgery - Gastric lap band is a procedure where an inflatable band is placed near the top of the stomach to limit food intake. This procedure has one of the quickest recovery times compared to other bariatric surgeries. Indeed, it also has the shortest operation time. Lap band procedure recovery time is usually 1 day in the hospital. Typically, people require between 1-4 weeks for a full recovery.

      Gastric balloon recovery time - A gastric balloon is a saline-filled balloon that can be placed in your stomach for up to 6 months to reduce the amount of food you can eat. This is an outpatient procedure that takes about 30 minutes and usually only requires 1-2 hours of recovery before you can go home. Subsequently, most people can resume a solid diet three weeks after the endoscopic procedure and have few complications.

      Picture of gourmet salmon on a plate.
      Bariatric surgeries aim to decrease the amount of food you can eat. Some procedures also limit the amount of absorption that occurs in the small intestines.

      Bariatric Surgery Recovery Time - Back To Work

      The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) states that most people go back to work 1-2 weeks following surgery. However, the amount of time you need to recover depends on the type of surgery. Low energy can be a challenge for people following weight loss surgery because nutrient availability is lower in the weeks following surgery. Most jobs want you to return to work as quickly as possible.

      Pending your surgeon's instructions, you may want to consider starting with half days and working back up to a full schedule. Indeed, your ability to function at your optimal level is dependent not only on the procedure you had but also on your type of work. For example, if you have a physically demanding job, you may need to re-evaluate your duties with your manager in the weeks following surgery.

      When Can I Exercise?

      Exercise will start right away in the hospital. Although you will not be lifting weights or joining in on a rumba class in the hospital hallway, your surgeon and nurses will want to see you walking the halls before you are discharged. Most people can return to their usual physical activities, including sports and weight lifting, one month following surgery. If you are a swimmer, ensure your incisions have healed before jumping in the pool.

      Most importantly, exercise is key to success in long-term weight loss following bariatric surgery. To allow yourself time to heal, start slow, follow your surgeon's instructions, and listen to your body.

      Two women in bike gear sitting on a bench talking.
      Exercise after bariatric surgery is an important key to long-term weight loss.

      Strategies To Reduce Bariatric Surgery Recovery Time

      If you are eager to decrease your recovery time from bariatric surgery, set yourself up for success by following your surgeon's directions and implement some, or all, of the strategies below:

      Things to do before surgery

      • Firstly, follow your surgeon's instructions on pre-op preparation.
      • Some surgeries require you to follow a pre-op liquid diet. You mustn't cheat on your liquid diet.
      • Some surgeons may require you to lose a certain amount of weight before surgery. Find an exercise regime that you can stick to before and after surgery.
      • Prepare for your recovery at home. Clean out your pantry and create healthy cooking and shopping habits. Furthermore, you may need to prepare your closet by having clothes that will fit you in the weeks following surgery.
      • Your diet will need to change after surgery. Indeed, you will have a higher chance of reaching your weight loss goals if you can follow a diet before surgery.
      • Inform your family, friends, and people you live with about your weight loss plans and goals. Let them know how they can help you.
      • Join a patient support group that you can reach out to before and after surgery. A supportive and understanding community can help you reach your goals.

      Things to do in the hospital

      • Get up and move as soon as possible, pending your surgeon's instructions and following the guidance of your nurse and physical therapist.
      • Dangle your feet or move in bed to boost circulation.
      • Perform breathing exercises to increase oxygen in your blood. Your nurse may instruct you to cough and take a deep breath, as well as use an incentive spirometer, which helps you breathe deeply and remove lung secretions that may lead to pneumonia. A good rule of thumb is to use the incentive spirometer during every commercial break on TV while you are awake.
      • Listen to your discharge instructions carefully and ask any questions as they arise. Moreover, keep a pen and pad of paper at your bedside to write down questions as you think of them.
      Woman laying in a hospital bed.
      The steps you take in the hospital impact your success in bariatric surgery recovery time.

      Things to do at home

      • Follow your surgeon's discharge instructions.
      • Go to your follow-up appointments.
      • Adhere to your post-op diet. Most people start with liquids only and then can advance their diets slowly based on their type of surgery. If you struggle to meal plan, and follow a healthy diet, meet with a nutritionist to help keep you on track.
      • Keep moving and exercising regularly within the parameters set by your surgeon.
      • There are many emotional ups and downs following weight loss surgery. For example, many people struggle with their identity, self-confidence, and perception of self following surgery. Similarly, your relationships can also be affected by your choice to have surgery and your ambition to lose weight. Find a therapist that can help you overcome the emotional and mental hurdles of bariatric surgery.

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        Julia Rae Walker, RN, BSN, BA

        Author

        Julia is an experienced critical care nurse with a background in pediatric and adult patient populations. Her passion is helping patients maximize their quality of life.

        Gintas Antanavicius, MD, FACS, FASMBS

        Medical Reviewer

        Dr. G is a co-founder of BariBuilder. A US-based expert surgeon with over 10 years of bariatric experience, he regularly publishes research in medical journals like SOARD, Obesity Surgery, etc.