Weight Loss Surgery: What to Expect on the Day of Surgery

The most common procedures can all be done with laparoscopic surgery

In This Article

The day of your weight loss surgery (also referred to as bariatric surgery) you might find yourself with a few day-of jitters. It’s completely normal but by knowing what to expect the day of your procedure you can help both calm your nerves and help yourself and your support team be as prepared as possible for the procedure.

The good news is, by the time you get to the day of your weight loss surgery all your bloodwork, labs, and evaluations will have been completed. Here’s what you can expect when you show up to the hospital, as well as during and after the procedure.

man getting ready for weight loss surgery the day of his procedure
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Before the Surgery

On the day of your weight loss surgery, you’ll show up to the hospital a few hours ahead of your surgery time. A staff member from the hospital will likely call a few days before or even the day before with your check-in time and any last-minute information you’ll need to know.

Make sure to take the guesswork out of your morning—get the directions you’ll need ready as well as where to park, which entrance you should be near, and all other logistical details so that you’re not wasting time the day of hunting them down. You want to give yourself plenty of time to get to the hospital for check-in.

Make sure not to eat or drink the morning of surgery. Leave any valuables, such as jewelry, at home. Your healthcare provider will tell you ahead of time which medications you should and should not take the morning of surgery.

Once you get to the hospital, you’ll meet with the health care team that will be with you during your weight loss surgery. This will include nurses, an anesthesiologist, as well as your surgeon. You’ll be weighed before the procedure for a final body mass index (BMI) update.

From there, you’ll be given an IV to start sedation to help you relax. You may also have a catheter placed to help collect urine both during and after surgery. Typically a friend or family member is permitted to wait with you in the pre-op area for this until it’s time for you to be taken into the surgical room.

During the Surgery

There are a few different types of weight loss surgery, and whichever method you and your health care provider have chosen ahead of time will dictate what happens during surgery. The three most common are gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, and the adjustable gastric band. Confirm the technique with your physician.

No matter what procedure you’re getting, weight loss surgery lasts anywhere from one to three hours. You can expect to be asleep from general anesthesia for the entirety of the procedure.

Gastric Bypass

If you’re getting gastric bypass the stomach is divided laparoscopically, creating a small pouch at the top (forming approximately an ounce). From there, the small intestine is also divided, connecting the bottom portion to this newly created stomach pouch.

This not only makes the stomach smaller (helping you feel fuller quicker when you eat), the new digestive tract re-routes the food stream, changing gut hormones, suppressing hunger, and promoting satiety cues.

Sleeve Gastrectomy

A sleeve gastrectomy (also called a gastric sleeve) is also performed laparoscopically, removing approximately 80% of the stomach. The remainder of the stomach is a tube-shaped (similar to a banana) pouch that does a similar mechanism gastric bypass does—holding less volume of food and changing gut hormones to reduce appetite and help you feel full.

Gastric Band Surgery

For a gastric band surgery, the surgeon will make small incisions in the upper abdomen laparoscopically and insert a band around the top portion of the stomach.

This band will create that small stomach pouch, and by adding or removing fluid in a balloon that surrounds the band (via a port placed under the skin in your abdomen) the band can be tightened or expanded to make the pouch smaller or larger.

After the Surgery

Once the surgery is completed you’ll wake up in a recovery area, separate from where the surgery took place. Here you’ll be monitored until the anesthesia wears off.

When awake, nurses will likely have you up and moving for short periods of time about an hour or two after the procedure to help with recovery as well as prevent blood clots or other complications. You’ll also be given some breathing exercises to help prevent any respiratory issues as you recover.

There will be very specific instructions on when (and what) to drink or eat, as the size of your stomach has drastically changed. To start, you may be on a strictly liquid diet for a few weeks post-surgery to prevent nausea and gradually get used to how quickly your stomach fills up before moving on to food.

Depending on the type of weight loss procedure you’ve had done, you can expect to stay in the hospital for two to three days before being discharged.

A Word From Verywell

One of the most important things to do following weight loss surgery is to let your new stomach rest after the procedure. This is why your diet is so closely monitored (and restricted) after surgery.

Discharge from the hospital also usually depends on how you start to handle clear liquids. You’ll start small, usually 1 to 2 ounces every 20 minutes or so once you get the thumbs up from your surgeon.

It can be overwhelming to think about how to handle your nutrition after your weight loss surgery but try to take recovery one step at a time. Follow the instructions in the hospital and what you’ll need to do immediately after as you recover.

As you get stronger and more time passes, your healthcare team will discuss the next steps for your diet in follow-up appointments as they check on your new stomach and how you’re healing from the procedure.

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Article Sources
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  2. Northern Westchester Hospital Northwell Health. What to expect the day of your surgery.

  3. American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Bariatric surgery procedures.

  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding.

  5. Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Your Surgery: From Planning to Post-Operative Care.