How do I prepare for gastric bypass? 

You are an important member of your own healthcare team. The steps you take before surgery can improve your comfort and outcome.

You can prepare for a gastric bypass by:

  • Answering all questions about your medical history and medications. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications, and allergies at all times.
  • Getting preoperative testing as directed. Testing will vary depending on your age, health, and specific procedure. Preoperative testing may include a chest X-ray, electrocardiography (ECG), blood tests, and other tests as needed.
  • Losing some weight as directed by your surgeon. Even losing a small amount of weight can help reduce serious risks of gastric bypass surgery.
  • Not eating or drinking before surgery as directed. Your surgery may be cancelled if you eat or drink too close to the start of surgery because you can choke on stomach contents during anesthesia.
  • Stopping smoking as soon as possible. Even quitting for just a few days can be beneficial and help the healing process.
  • Taking or stopping medications exactly as directed. This may include not taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and blood thinners. Your doctor will give you instructions for taking your specific medications and supplements.

Questions to ask your doctor

Facing surgery can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their questions during a doctor’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment. Contact your doctor with concerns and questions before gastric bypass and between appointments.  

It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your appointments. Questions can include:

  • Why do I need gastric bypass? Are there any other options for treating my condition?
  • How long will the procedure take? When can I go home?
  • What restrictions will I have after the surgery? When can I return to work and other activities?
  • What kind of assistance will I need at home?
  • How should I take my medications? 
  • How will you treat my pain?
  • When should I follow up with you?
  • How should I contact you if problems arise? Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours. 

What can I expect after gastric bypass?

Knowing what to expect can help make your road to recovery after gastric bypass surgery as smooth as possible.

How long will it take to recover?

You will stay in the recovery room after surgery until you are alert, breathing effectively, and all vital signs are stable. You may have a sore throat if a tube was placed in your windpipe during surgery. This is usually temporary, but tell your care team if you are uncomfortable.

You may have a tube that was passed through your nose into your stomach during surgery. This tube will be used to keep your stomach empty. Your surgeon will remove the tube when your stomach has recovered enough from the effects of surgery to work properly. The tube is generally taken out within 24 hours. 

You will stay in the hospital three to five days. Full recovery is a gradual process. Recovery times vary depending on the procedure, your general health, age, and other factors. Full recovery takes four to six weeks. 

Will I feel pain?

Pain control is important for healing and a smooth recovery. There will be discomfort after your surgery. Your surgeon will treat your pain so you are comfortable and can get the rest you need. Call your doctor if your pain gets worse or changes in any way because it may be a sign of a complication.

You will likely have narcotics for the pain. Narcotics will make you feel drowsy. You should not drive while taking this medication. 

When should I call my doctor?

It is important to keep your follow-up appointments after gastric bypass. Contact your doctor for questions and concerns between appointments. Call your surgeon right away or seek immediate medical care if you have:

  • Breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, labored breathing, or wheezing
  • Change in alertness, such as passing out, unresponsiveness, or confusion
  • Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure, or palpitations
  • Fever. A low-grade fever (lower than 101 degrees Fahrenheit) is common for a couple of days after surgery and not necessarily a sign of a surgical infection. However, you should follow your doctor's specific instructions about when to call for a fever.
  • Inability to urinate or have a bowel movement
  • Leg pain, redness or swelling, especially in the calf, which may indicate a blood clot
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain that is not controlled by your pain medication or severe abdominal pain
  • Uncontrolled or heavy bleeding (hemorrhage)
  • Unexpected drainage, pus, redness or swelling of your incision