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Gastric Sleeve Surgery Recovery Time

Gastric Sleeve Surgery Recovery Time

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      If you are considering having gastric sleeve surgery, you have probably thought of several questions you'd like to ask. There is no such thing as "too much research" when it comes to one's health. It's essential to weigh the pros and cons before having any surgical procedure.

      One of the first questions of concern for most people who are considering sleeve gastrectomy is "What is the gastric sleeve surgery recovery time?"

      The simple answer is that recovery time for any surgery varies from one person to the next. An individual's overall pre-surgery health and activity level have a direct effect on how well he/she will recover from surgery.

      The more complicated answer is that recovery from gastric sleeve surgery is a life-long journey. The journey begins before a patient checks in to the hospital for the procedure.

      Man smiling and looking at the camera.
      Recovery from gastric sleeve surgery varies from person to person.‌‌

      Plan For Gastric Sleeve Surgery Recovery Before The Actual Surgery

      Any changes or modifications to diet or behavior that can be done before surgery will help make the post-surgical transition easier. For instance, following gastric sleeve surgery, the amount of food that you can eat will be drastically reduced. Diets should include high protein and low fat.  Also, drinking plenty of fluids each day will help promote weight loss.

      A bariatric surgeon and a nutritionist can help you learn about necessary dietary changes that will help promote success following gastric sleeve surgery. Taking steps to initiate those changes before your procedure can improve how you feel after surgery and may make the process feel less daunting.

      Things to Consider About Gastric Sleeve Surgery Recovery Time

      The recovery time for patients who have gastric sleeve procedures can be affected by several factors. Let's take a closer look at some things that may affect your recovery time.

      Pre-Surgery Considerations:

      • What comorbidities do you have that need to be addressed?  
        A comorbidity is a disease that is the result of, or strongly related to, a primary disease. In layman's terms, this means any disease or disorder that occurs at the same time as another disease/disorder.

        As it applies to weight loss surgery, the primary disease is morbid obesity, and it has many possible comorbidities. For example, a person who is obese may also be diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, or heart disease. These conditions are comorbidities to obesity.

        While many people may not think of pre-existing conditions/comorbidities as an issue that could affect recovery time, it is something to be considered. The drastic change in the amount of food a person can eat or changes in activity levels can have a direct impact on blood pressure and blood sugar levels. This is one reason that close follow-up with a bariatric surgeon following gastric sleeve surgery is important.
      Woman with her hands on her head smiling.
      There are several things to consider before committing to gastric sleeve surgery.


      During and Immediately Following Surgery:

      • Anesthesia
        Bariatric surgery is usually performed under general anesthesia. When the procedure is complete, the anesthesia is reversed, and the patient will become aware of his/her environment.

        Individuals who suffer from morbid obesity often have a delay in the recovery from anesthesia. This is because fats store a large amount of anesthetic medication that is administered for surgery. Therefore, the effects of the medication(s) may continue to act after the procedure is complete.

        Complications related to anesthesia, however, are rare. For most patients, recovery from anesthesia following gastric sleeve surgery should be immediate.
      Man laying in the hospital bed talking to the doctor.
      In most cases, recovery from pain after sleeve gastrectomy is usually not complicated.
      • Management of Pain
        Once recovery from anesthesia has occurred, there is the issue of pain.  The two most common sources of pain following gastric sleeve surgery are incision site pain and gas pain.

        Any time there is trauma to a tissue, such as the trauma caused by surgical incisions, pain is to be expected. The incision that is the source of the most pain is usually the largest, which is where the part of the stomach that is detached is removed from the body.

        Immediately following surgery, pain medications will be administered via IV. After the doctor gives the order, the medication is usually given orally.

      Two common types of gas pain may occur after sleeve gastrectomy. While they are different, they both can be frustrating.

      • Intestinal gas pains - Caused by a buildup of gas inside the intestines.
      • Intraperitoneal gas pains - Caused by gas trapped outside the intestines, but inside the abdominal cavity.

      To relieve the gas pain associated with gastric bypass surgery it's recommended that you walk. Walking early and often after surgery can help reduce the painful gassy feelings that can be felt. Walking encourages the rhythmic movement of the intestines to begin again, which helps relieve gas and prevent constipation.

      The First Few Weeks of Recovery After Sleeve Gastrectomy

      While some discomfort is expected after surgery, it is usually minimal, and most patients are discharged from the hospital within 24-48 hours following gastric sleeve surgery.

      After sleeve gastrectomy, one issue that many patients experience is known as "dumping syndrome." This condition occurs when food empties too quickly into the small intestine.  It can cause nausea, vomiting, faintness, feelings of being jittery, and diarrhea. To prevent dumping syndrome, patients should be mindful of being compliant with the bariatric diet that their doctor prescribes.

      As the body recovers from sleeve surgery, the activity level can be expected to be a bit slower than before surgery. Although this can be attributed to mild discomfort, it is also related to adjustments that the body is making as a new diet is being practiced. Decreased food intake can also cause individuals to feel more sluggish, especially at first.

      While exercise is essential to help achieve and maintain a healthy weight, exercise must be implemented with your physician's supervision/recommendation during the gastric sleeve recovery period.

      Woman laying in the hospital bed.
      Typically, recovery time is between two and six weeks.

      After Gastric Sleeve Surgery, How Much Time Do I Need Off Work?

      As with all other recovery issues, deciding when it's time to return to work is subjective, varying from person to person. While some people return to work in as little as one week, others take up to six weeks off of work to allow for full recovery after gastric sleeve surgery. Typically, recovery time is between two and six weeks, and overall, most people return to work within two weeks.

      If you have a sedentary job, such as working as a secretary or other light work, your expected time to return to work is typically shorter than those who work in jobs that require moderate to heavy labor. Remember, no two people are alike. Therefore, you shouldn't try to gauge what is appropriate for yourself based on what others say has worked for them.

      Gastric Sleeve Surgery Recovery Is a Lifelong Process

      No matter how much research a person does before having surgery, it is of utmost importance to continue learning. The recovery period after gastric sleeve surgery is a lifelong process.

      Every day requires having a mindset to make healthier choices. Those choices mean eating differently, exercising, and staying engaged with your doctor and healthcare team.

      One thing that many people who consider bariatric surgery (of any kind) have in common is their emotional "connection" to food. To successfully recover from the procedure, learning to identify what triggers the emotional need for food, and how to direct those triggers toward healthier choices takes a lifetime of commitment.

      The best advice I believe anyone can be given about recovery is to let the process happen.  Individuals are not born and do not become morbidly obese overnight. It takes time. In much the same way, recovery from years of unhealthy choices takes time.

      If you have had sleeve gastrectomy surgery, or are considering it, remember that mistakes don't make you a failure. Learn from those mistakes and apply better principles moving forward.

      Follow-Up With Your Doctor

      To help make recovery time less complicated, follow the advice and instructions provided by your doctor. Adhere to diet, exercise, and medication regimen, as prescribed following the sleeve gastrectomy procedure. If you are unsure about how your body is recovering from surgery, make an appointment to talk with your doctor. No question is not important.

      Doctor on a computer showing things to a patient.
      Schedule and keep routine follow-ups with your doctor following gastric sleeve surgery.

      Conclusion

      In most cases, recovery from sleeve gastrectomy surgery is uncomplicated. Planning and preparing for recovery before the procedure is done will help minimize fears and anxiety following the surgery. While healing and recovery time varies on an individual basis, the average time is from two to six weeks. Developing good post-operative eating and exercise habits, as well as follow-up care with your physician, can help make your recovery and long-term success more easily attainable.

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        Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA

        Author

        Darby is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty-five years experience. Most of all, she loves empowering patients with the knowledge they need to live full, healthy lives.

        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.