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Gastric Bypass Recovery Time

Gastric Bypass Recovery Time

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      The decision to have gastric bypass surgery is substantial. People who are considering gastric bypass surgery can feel weighed down by the number of questions they have regarding the surgery, pre-op and post-op diets, life after surgery, and recovery time after gastric bypass. While it is natural to want to fly through the recovery phase of surgery so that you can get back to your normal day-to-day activities, giving yourself enough recovery time after gastric bypass surgery is an essential part of succeeding in your weight loss goals. When you are making a big life-altering decision, preparation is critical. Here is an in-depth guide to gastric bypass recovery time.

      What is gastric bypass surgery?

      To understand why recovery time for gastric bypass surgery is important, it is essential to know what gastric bypass surgery involves. Gastric bypass surgery, also known as Roux-en-Y, is the second most common surgical procedure for weight loss. The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeries states that gastric bypass is the "gold standard" for weight-loss surgeries.

      Gastric bypass surgery is a two-phase procedure. Firstly, the stomach is surgically modified into a small pouch that can hold only about 30 millimeters of food and liquid volume at one time. Secondly, the small intestine is cut so that the smaller stomach pouch is attached to the lower end of the small intestine. The small intestine is re-routed, causing the digestive tract to be shortened so that fewer calories and nutrients are absorbed. Interestingly, the most significant change that leads to weight loss is one that the eye cannot see. When the stomach and small intestine are surgically modified in gastric bypass surgery, there is a significant change in how gut hormones work. Indeed, the changes in your gut hormones make you feel full and satisfied more quickly and suppress hunger. Furthermore, these surgical changes to your gut can reverse one of the main causes of type 2 diabetes in obese people.

      What is the recovery time after gastric bypass surgery?

      The average recovery time for gastric bypass surgery is around 4-6 weeks. Most people who have gastric bypass surgery without complications return to full activities within this time frame. In fact, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass recovery time is comparable to the recovery times for other weight loss procedures. The length of recovery time from gastric bypass surgery is essential because it allows the new connection points in your digestive tract to heal fully. Indeed, it also is the period for which most complications from surgery arise.

      Picture of a the inside of a calendar book.
      Most people need at least one month to return to their normal daily activities following gastric bypass surgery.

      As with any surgical procedure, there is a risk for complications. However, the rate for complications from gastric bypass surgery is lower than surgical procedures that are commonplace, including gallbladder removal and hip replacement surgeries. Gastric bypass complications that can lengthen recovery time include:

      Early complications

      • Anesthesia-related complications such as breathing issues
      • Digestive contents leaking into the abdomen at surgical suture lines
      • Nausea and vomiting
      • Infection
      • Intestinal or stomach obstruction
      • Bleeding
      • Thromboembolism or blood clots

      Late complications

      Woman having her blood taken.
      Complications during and after surgery can lengthen your recovery time.

      The type of incision you have during surgery can also impact your recovery time from gastric bypass. Most Roux-en-Y procedures are performed laparoscopically. That is, the procedure is performed through a few small incisions in the abdomen, and the surgeon is visibly guided by a camera that is placed through one of the incisions. Laparoscopic gastric bypass recovery time tends to be shorter than traditional abdominal incisions. Traditional open abdominal incisions require that the surgeon not only cuts a longer incision into your skin but must also cut through fat and muscle to access your digestive organs. Because more tissue is displaced and affected, it can add to your gastric bypass recovery time. Indeed, there is also a higher risk of complications with traditional open abdominal incisions.

      Gastric Bypass Recovery Time Off Work

      Most people go back to work 1-2 weeks after gastric bypass surgery, per the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeries. However, the length of time you need to plan on being off from work depends on several factors. Firstly, you may have unique health-related circumstances that may lead your surgeon to recommend you take more time off. Secondly, the type of work you do can also determine your gastric bypass recovery time off work. If you have a physically demanding job that requires heavy lifting, straining, or high levels of physical stress, you should plan on taking more time away from work to heal. Forcing yourself to return to a physically demanding job can strain the incisions in your digestive tract and give rise to complications such as hernias.

      Group of people in a conference room talking.
      The time you need to take off from work depends on the type of work you do and individual factors affecting your recovery time.

      Your surgeons will have recommendations for you regarding how soon you should plan to return to work. It can be beneficial to start back at only half days for a week or two, and then increase to your regular hours. While most managers will want you to return to your role as quickly as you are able, returning too soon can have consequences for both you and your place of work. When you are considering gastric bypass surgery, allow yourself an adequate amount of time to recover and adapt to your new lifestyle before resuming your day-to-day activities.

      Two women sitting together working.
      A full, healthy recovery is beneficial to both you and your place of work. Give yourself adequate time to heal after gastric bypass surgery.

      Benefits of Gastric Bypass Surgery

      Gastric bypass surgery has some of the best success rates of all weight-loss surgeries. Most patients can expect to lose 60-80% of their excess weight over the long term. If you adhere to your post-surgery dietary and lifestyle recommendations by your surgeon, you will likely keep off over 50% of your excess weight for the rest of your life. Gastric bypass surgery can also improve and resolve may conditions associated with obesity, including type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, and hypertension. People who have success with gastric bypass surgery report more energy, as well as improvement in their mental and emotional health. Giving yourself plenty of recovery time after gastric bypass surgery can improve your overall physical, mental, and emotional health and help you reach your weight loss goals.

      Quick Tips On How To Maximize Your Gastric Bypass Recovery Time

      • Get moving in the hospital as soon as your surgeon allows
      • Follow the recommendations by your health care team in the hospital. Your health care team will likely consist of your nurses, physical and occupational therapists, nutritionists, and social workers.
      • Follow your bariatric surgeon’s guidelines for recovery, diet, and exercise.
      • Attend all follow-up visits.
      • Stick to the diet.
      • Meet with a nutritionist and maintain your relationship throughout your gastric bypass recovery and beyond.
      • Understand what vitamins and supplements you need to take daily after bariatric surgery.
      • Get a therapist on board to help you navigate emotional hurdles, stress, and changes you may encounter in your self-perception, self-confidence, and identity.
      • Establish an exercise regime that gets you excited to get fit and continue toward your weight loss goals.
      • Keep healthy, supportive relationships close during recovery and try to limit time with relationships that damage your self-confidence and doubt your weight loss goals.

      Now that you no longer need to question what is the recovery time for gastric bypass surgery, you can begin to plan out your steps to achieving your weight loss goals. Along with setting aside enough time to recover, make plans to prepare for surgery ahead of time as well. Preparing for this life-changing procedure involves making changes to your home, wardrobe, lifestyle, habits, diet, and even relationships. Planning for recovery is just one of the critical steps to helping you succeed and thrive after gastric bypass surgery.

      Man standing on a rock with his arms outstretched towards the sky.
      Preparedness is key in achieving your weight loss goals.

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        Julia Rae Walker, RN, BSN, BA


        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.