Weight Loss Surgery: Recovery

You can expect to stay in the hospital between two to three days.

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After weight loss surgery (also referred to as bariatric surgery) you should have a relatively short recovery in the hospital. This is because the most common weight loss surgery procedures, like gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, and gastric band surgery are done laparoscopically and are minimally invasive.

Your recovery will continue at home. Here’s what you need to know about the recovery time after weight loss surgery, as well as follow-up care you will do to assist in the success of the procedure.

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Surgery Follow-Up

Follow-up care after weight loss surgery is one of the most crucial parts of the procedure. Those who adhere to their follow-up appointments are often more likely to have greater weight loss success after surgery than those who don’t.

It takes time to monitor how successful your procedure has been. Those who have a sleeve gastrectomy will see weight loss over a 12 to 18 month period while for gastric bypass it can take anywhere between 18 to 24 months.

There will be four to six follow-up appointments in the first year after surgery, and after that your health care provider will determine how often you’ll need to see them annually.

The first visit will be two to three weeks after surgery. Here, you’re typically weighed, the incisions from surgery will be checked, and any questions you have can be answered. Your healthcare team will also start to evaluate what your new diet will look like, although you still may be following a liquid diet for a few more weeks.

The next appointment (around four weeks) will dive deeper into your diet with the help of a nutritionist along with recording some baseline metrics like your body mass index (BMI). They will establish a healthy exercise program for you and advise what to do if you need any further support, such as meeting with a psychologist or counselor.

From there, appointments will be at three months, six months, and nine months. Here, your healthcare team will record your progress, both physically and mentally. They’ll answer any questions you have and make changes necessary to your diet to help with post-surgery success.

After nine months you’ll likely check in with your health care team annually to get continued education and support as well as follow-up exams, BMI updates, and more.

Recovery Timeline

Depending on the type of weight loss surgery you had and if any complications occurred in surgery, you’ll be in the hospital between two to three days (sometimes shorter or longer depending on the patient).

There may be some pain at the incision site or general nausea in the days after surgery. Some patients who have laparoscopic procedures may have pain in the neck or shoulder area as well.

Physical activity and breathing exercises can help speed up recovery in the hospital, which is why your healthcare team will have you up taking short walks and practicing deep breathing using an incentive spirometer to help expand the lungs soon after surgery.

Once you are discharged you should plan to continue to recover at home. You’ll likely be mobile enough to move around and have visitors should you choose to.

Take some time to think about the logistics of your home for the first few weeks. (For example, you may want to move your bedroom downstairs for a few weeks to avoid going up and down stairs.)

Your healthcare team will help with this, too. They’ll ask you a series of questions about your living situation before you go home and can provide helpful pointers to get through the next week or two as comfortably as possible.

If you’re taking pain medication you’ll be asked not to drive until you’ve stopped—about a week after the surgery.

Coping With Recovery

You may hear weight loss surgery referred to as a “tool” in your weight loss journey. That means it’s not a quick fix, but one step of many you need to follow in order to have lifelong weight loss and maintenance.

That’s why many weight loss surgery patients and medical professionals recommend getting some sort of mental health support as part of your recovery. You may want to have this support in the first year after surgery, or continue it indefinitely.

Having a support group, private counseling, or both can help with the many emotional changes (everything from dealing with your new diet in social settings to seeing yourself change in the mirror) that are happening in tandem with the physical transformation.

Wound Care

If you have any stitches from your surgery they will likely dissolve, and any Steri-Strips that were placed on the incisions will fall off within a few days post-surgery. The only thing that would need to be removed are surgical staples, which your health care team will take care of during one of your first follow-up visits.

You should, however, keep any wounds from surgery clean. Shower with soap and water once your surgical team gives you approval and only use the products (like antibiotic ointment) or dressings they recommend that will help speed up healing.

If you notice redness, swelling, oozing, have a fever, pain, or nausea let your health care team know immediately so they can make sure any wounds you do have are not infected.

Call your doctor if you have any signs of infection or other concerning symptoms. Call 911 if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

A Word From Verywell

Weight loss surgery recovery can vary greatly from person to person. Some people may feel fine as soon as a few days after surgery and well enough to travel short distances (such as, to the grocery store) while others may have lingering side effects like nausea, discomfort, and more.

No matter which end of the spectrum you fall on remember that everyone recovers at their own speed. Even if you do feel fine it’s important not to overdo it. Putting your body through more stress than it’s ready for could lead to a hernia, dehydration, or other setback in your overall recovery.

If you have any questions as you recover it’s important to check in with your health care team, even if it’s before your scheduled follow-up appointment. They’ll want to hear from you to help you stay on track to help you feel better as quickly as possible.

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Article Sources
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  1. Penn Medicine Princeton Health. Bariatric Follow-Up Care.

  2. First Health of the Carolinas. Post-surgery & follow-up visits.

  3. UCSF Health. Recovering from bariatric surgery.

  4. Harvard Health. Psychological aspects of bariatric surgery. Updated January, 2008.