Gastrectomy Surgery: How to Prepare

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Gastrectomy surgery is the removal of part or all of the stomach. This surgery might be done to treat a variety of conditions, including obesity, stomach cancer, a hole (perforation) in the stomach, stomach polyps, peptic ulcers, or certain rare diseases.

This surgery is done under general anesthetic in the hospital and will include a hospital stay. Complications will mean a longer hospital stay. In this article, learn more about how to prepare for gastrectomy surgery.

Preparing for gastrectomy surgery: Patient and surgeon
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Location

Gastrectomy surgery is considered to be major abdominal surgery. It is done in a hospital, with the use of general anesthetic (patients are completely asleep). It may be done as open surgery, which means a larger incision over the abdomen, or laparoscopically, where only a few small incisions are used.

In general, open surgery may mean that there is a longer hospital stay and recovery, and laparoscopic surgery may mean a shorter stay and recovery time. The length of the hospital stay will depend on several different factors, but for uncomplicated sleeve gastrectomy, most patients are often discharged after about two days.

When a section of the stomach is removed, it’s called a partial or a sleeve gastrectomy and if all of the stomach is removed, it’s called a total gastrectomy. In some cases, other parts of the digestive system might be removed at the same time, especially if the surgery is due to cancer that has spread to other organs. 

What to Wear

It will be helpful to choose comfortable clothes for the day of surgery. Any belongings that are brought to the hospital, such as clothing, will be held for patients while they are in surgery, so designer or expensive clothing is best left at home. Patients will change into a hospital gown after being admitted and prior to going into surgery.

A clean set of clothes will also be needed for going home the day of discharge. Some clothing items that might be helpful for the hospital stay will include comfortable undergarments, socks, and slippers or shoes that are easy to get off and on without bending over.

Food and Drink

The surgeon will give instructions on when to stop eating and drinking prior to surgery. In some cases, it may be necessary, for instance, to not eat or drink anything after midnight the day prior to the surgery. The surgeon may also give directions for how to take any medications on the day of surgery.

For gastrectomy surgery that’s being done for weight loss, there may be other instructions on diet in the weeks leading up to the surgery date. Those patients who are asked to try and adjust their weight before surgery will receive some extra instruction on how and what to eat.

Medications

It’s important to let the medical team know about all medications, supplements, and vitamins that are currently being taken. If any medications need to be prescribed to prepare for surgery, they will be given at a pre-surgical appointment. Taking a list of current medications to the pre-surgery appointment is helpful in order to get guidance.

Some medications, especially those that might increase the risk of bleeding, may need to be stopped several days or weeks before the surgery. Even some supplements and over-the-counter drugs can increase the risk of bleeding during surgery so it’s important to give the doctor or nurse a complete list.

For medications that are taken every day, the surgical team will advise, if, for instance, those might be taken with a small sip of water the day of surgery. Certain other drugs may be prescribed to take at home after discharge from the hospital.

What to Bring

Most people stay in the hospital for at least a few days after gastrectomy surgery. The day of surgery, bringing some things to the hospital will make the time as an inpatient more comfortable.

Having a friend or family member come along to the hospital is helpful because they can be available to answer questions and advocate. It’s important to bring any documents that are needed along with a health insurance card and a picture ID. 

The hospital will provide basic items, such as hospital gowns, soap, and even sometimes a toothbrush or socks. However, many people find that having a few of one’s own favorite items can help in feeling better while in the hospital. Other things that will be useful during a short hospital stay include:

  • A change of clothes for discharge
  • A hairbrush or comb
  • Cell phone or tablet and charger
  • Chapstick, body lotion, face wash, and other toiletries
  • Eyeglasses/contacts and dentures, if needed
  • Slippers or shoes
  • Socks
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste

There may be some discomfort at the surgical site on the abdomen, making soft, loose clothing a good choice for going home. There are several things that shouldn’t be brought to the hospital, including expensive or irreplaceable items such as a laptop, jewelry, cash, and credit cards.

Pre-Op Lifestyle Changes

Stopping smoking is an important part of preparing for surgery. Smoking can hinder the recovery process and smoking cessation will help in preparing for as uneventful post-surgery course as possible. The surgical team can help in recommending a smoking cessation program and providing support.

Working with a dietitian before surgery may also be recommended. This is especially true if there is a need to either gain or lose weight prior to surgery. A dietitian can also help in preparing for the dietary changes that will be needed during recovery and going forward. 

Exercise might also be recommended before surgery. Physical activity might be as simple as taking a daily walk or could be as involved as working with a physical therapist or a personal trainer. This increase in activity level helps in preparing the body for surgery and will help set the stage for a smoother recovery process.

A Word From Verywell

Preparing for surgery requires the input from the entire healthcare team as well as family and friends. The surgery and the hospital stay are often thought of as the beginning of the road, but in fact, the journey starts long before showing up at the hospital.

It’s now being increasingly understood that being in the best possible physical and mental shape before surgery, as well as managing stress and pain in the hospital, is important to a quicker recovery.

What’s more, any other co-existing health conditions also need to be addressed and managed effectively prior to surgery. Keeping the medical team in the loop every step of the way will mean that all the aspects of care are being addressed.

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  1. Major P, Wysocki M, Torbicz G, et al. Risk factors for prolonged length of hospital stay and readmissions after laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy and laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Obes Surg. 2018;28:323-332. doi:10.1007/s11695-017-2844-x

  2. Małczak P, Pisarska M, Piotr M, Wysocki M, Budzyński A, Pędziwiatr M. Enhanced recovery after bariatric surgery: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Surg. 2017;27:226-235. doi:10.1007/s11695-016-2438-z

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