Gastric Bypass Surgery: Recovery

Recovery from your gastric bypass surgery takes about three to six weeks. That said, your "real" recovery lasts a lifetime. This is because right after surgery you must adopt strict eating and exercise habits in order to sustain your weight loss.

In order to optimize your chances for a successful surgical outcome, it's important to carefully follow your surgeon's post-operative instructions. These instructions will include when to follow-up, types and amounts of liquids and foods to eat, and what activities to restrict.

Following Up After Gastric Bypass Surgery
Cecilie_Arcurs/Getty Images

Surgery Follow-Up

After gastric bypass surgery, you can expect to follow-up with your bariatric surgeon within these time frames:

  • Two to three weeks after surgery
  • Four to five weeks after surgery
  • Every three months for the first year after surgery
  • After the first year, every six months initially, and then annually for life

Some of the main goals of these visits will be to:

  • Assess for any possible surgery-related complications (e.g., infection, gastrointestinal leak, or dumping syndrome).
  • Monitor for vitamin or mineral deficiencies through blood tests (taken at least every six months).
  • Keep track of your weight loss.
  • Discuss and manage any symptoms related to weight loss (e.g., body aches, dry skin, or mood changes).

About four to six weeks after surgery, you will also need to see your primary care physician and any specialist doctors (e.g., endocrinologist or cardiologist). With your significant weight loss, any chronic health conditions that you have, like type 2 diabetes mellitus or hypertension, will improve, if not reverse, over time. Your doctors, therefore, may need to adjust your medications.

Besides your surgery appointments, you will also have regularly scheduled sessions with a bariatric registered dietitian. These sessions are essential for ensuring that you are sticking to healthy eating habits, preparing food correctly, not skipping meals, and controlling portion sizes. Your dietitian appointments will occur around the following time points:

  • Two to three weeks after surgery
  • Six to eight weeks after surgery
  • Three months after surgery
  • Six months after surgery
  • Nine months after surgery
  • One year after surgery
  • After one year, you will meet every six months for the duration of life

Recovery Timeline

You will stay in the hospital for approximately two to five days after your surgery. Hospital stays are generally shorter for patients undergoing laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery versus open surgery.

During your hospital stay, expect to:

  • Have your vital signs and symptoms (e.g., pain or nausea) monitored by a nurse.
  • Start drinking clear liquids for breakfast on the second day after your surgery. Your diet may advance to full liquids with protein shakes (if tolerating) by lunchtime.
  • Use a breathing tool called an incentive spirometer to help expand your lungs after surgery.
  • Wear compression boots and take a blood thinner to prevent blood clots in your legs.
  • Have your urinary catheter removed the day after your surgery.
  • Begin performing feet and leg exercises, followed by getting out of bed and walking around (usually by the first day or two after surgery). Your nurse or physical therapist will assist you with this.
  • Switch over to oral pain medication from intravenous pain medication.

Once discharged home, your surgical team will provide you with the following instructions:

  • Slowly advance from a full liquid diet to soft foods and eventually to solids foods (this process occurs over the course of about six weeks).
  • Take daily nutritional supplements (complex multivitamin, calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin C, and vitamin B12).
  • Drink 1.5 to 2 liters of water a day to prevent dehydration.
  • Walk daily with a goal of walking 2 miles a day or more by the sixth week after surgery.
  • Avoid strenuous activity for three to six weeks after surgery.
  • Avoid heavy lifting (anything heavier than 20 to 30 pounds) for the first six weeks after surgery.
  • Avoid driving until you are off all prescription pain medications, which is about one week after surgery.

Coping With Recovery

As you cope with the physical and emotional aftermath of surgery, it's a good idea to have someone home with you for the first few days after surgery.

Besides providing comfort and boosting your emotional well-being, a friend or loved one can help you with cleaning, caring for pets, grocery shopping, and keeping you on track with your advised fluid and diet intake. If you are still taking oral pain medication, they can also drive you to any appointments you have.

While you are recovering at home those first few days, keep in mind that you may require assistance with personal habits like using the bathroom or taking a shower.

If you have not already purchased or rented fall prevention items like a long sponge stick, toilet lift, or shower head with a detachable hose, a social worker or the person helping you at home may be able to take care of that for you.

Wound Care

Keeping your abdominal wound area clean and as dry as possible is important for preventing irritation and infection. While your surgeon will likely allow you to shower soon after surgery, they will advise you to pat the area dry after gently washing it with a mild soap. You will also be advised to not bathe or go into a swimming pool until the wound has fully healed (usually about three weeks).

You may have a dressing or thin bandages, called steri-strips, on your wound site(s). Talk to your doctor about how to redress the wound after showering or when you can expect the steri-strips to fall off.

You may also have surgical staples that need to be removed (around ten days after surgery) or dissolvable stitches that do not need any intervention.

Seek Medical Attention

Be sure to contact your surgeon or go to your nearest emergency room if you develop any symptoms or signs of a potential infection or other complication, such as:

  • Fever
  • Yellow/green and/or malodorous discharge from the wound site(s)
  • Increased wound redness, swelling, or tenderness
  • Coughing, chest or leg pain, or shortness of breath
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Pain in the abdomen or shoulder

A Word From Verywell

It's normal to experience a wide range of physical and mental symptoms after gastric bypass surgery. These symptoms may include fatigue, body aches, nausea, constipation, and various emotional highs and lows.

As you navigate your recovery, do not hesitate to reach out to your surgical team with any concerns or questions. They are there to help you succeed and feel well. Often times, little changes in your daily habits can go a long way in easing any unpleasant symptoms.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Penn Medicine Princeton Health. Bariatric follow-up care. 2020.

  2. Lim RB. Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Jones D, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate. Updated May 2019.

  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Roux-en-Y gastric bypass weight-loss surgery.

  4. UCSF Health. Recovery from bariatric surgery.

  5. Brigham and Women's Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Nutrition guidelines for sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass.

  6. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. About post-surgery bariatric vitamins & bariatric supplements. 2020.

Additional Reading