8 Tips for Recovering from Weight Loss Surgery

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    Consider these tips for a successful recovery.
    Recovering from weight loss surgery (bariatric surgery) is hard work—mentally, physically and emotionally. You can give yourself the best chance at success by being prepared for the work and the changes weight loss surgery brings. The major points are controlling your pain, enlisting the help of others, managing your dietary needs, and calling your doctor when something seems amiss.

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    1. Work with your healthcare team to recover safely.
    Your surgeon and other members of your healthcare team know that you aren’t going to feel good after surgery. It’s their job to help you do your part to recover safely. It’s up to you to cooperate with the activities they ask you to do. Controlling your pain and sticking to your activity schedule will help you recover faster. Preventing complications will also help you get home sooner. Your health and safety is their priority.

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    2. Take your prescribed pain meds so you can focus on getting better.
    Pain control is important for recovery. Your doctor and the hospital staff will treat your pain so you are comfortable. This lets you focus on getting better and doing your part to prevent complications. Stay ahead of the pain and tell your care team if you are in pain. It’s easier to prevent pain from getting worse than it is to control pain once it’s bad. So don’t hesitate to keep it under control.

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    3. Do your prescribed activities to speed your recovery and prevent complications.
    Your care team will encourage you to do activities to keep your blood flowing and your lungs functioning. This helps prevent complications, such as blood clots and pneumonia. Your team may have you sit and dangle your feet, change positions in bed, move your legs, cough into a pillow, and teach you how to take slow, deep breaths with an incentive spirometer. These activities may start as soon as the evening of your surgery. Ask for pain medicine to help you complete them comfortably.

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    4. Follow your doctor’s instructions to ease the transition from hospital to home.
    Your progress in the hospital will determine when you can go home. Your surgeon will discharge you once it’s safe for you to leave. Your team will give you complete discharge instructions for diet, activities and medicines. Following these exactly will help ensure a successful transition to being at home.

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    5. Make arrangements ahead of time for recovering at home.
    Once you’re home, you need to take it easy. Preparing for this before your surgery is a smart move. Is there someone at home to help you? Do you have to go up and down stairs? Where will you sleep? Is a bathroom close? Do you have foods that meet your dietary needs? Talk to your care team well in advance of surgery if you need help planning any of this. They can arrange a home visit to help you prepare.

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    6. Keep a daily schedule for what and when to eat.
    You will likely still be on a liquid diet when you leave the hospital. This will usually transition to soft food after 2 to 3 weeks. You’ll work up to solid food by 10 to 12 weeks. The amount you can eat or drink at one time will be very small. So you’ll need to follow a schedule for eating and drinking to make sure you get enough nutrition and fluids. It may be helpful to write out a daily schedule to keep yourself on track.

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    7. Walk to regain your strength and recover faster.
    Your body is recovering from surgery and going through major changes with weight loss. You may not feel like being active. But being active and walking will help you regain strength and recover faster. Your team will give you goals for walking each week. They will also tell you activities to avoid. You will start out with short periods of activity and work your way to longer intervals. Find a friend or family member to walk with you and keep you committed.

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    8. Know when to call your doctor if problems arise.
    You’ll have regular follow-up appointments with your doctor after bariatric surgery. It’s important to keep these appointments. Between appointments, call your doctor if you have a fever or pain, redness, swelling or drainage from your incision. You should also call your doctor if you have persistent nausea or vomiting, chest pain, breathing problems, leg pain or swelling, or pain that your medicine isn’t controlling. These could be signs of a complication.

  • happy-woman
    Congratulations!
    You are making a positive choice to improve your health and make life more enjoyable. Your success after bariatric surgery largely depends on your ability to stick with healthy lifestyle changes. This is often easy to say, but harder to do. You need a lifelong commitment to physical activity and a balanced diet. You may need to overcome some long-standing physical, emotional and mental habits and patterns. Support groups can be a vital part of your success. They can be your support for achieving and maintaining your weight loss and overall health goals.

8 Tips for Recovering From Weight Loss Surgery

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 

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  2. Miller AD, Smith KM. Medication and nutrient administration considerations after bariatric surgery. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2006;63(19):1852-7. http://www.ajhp.org/content/63/19/1852.full

  3. Post-Operative Phase for Gastric Bypass Surgery. University of Michigan Health System. http://www.med.umich.edu/bariatricsurgery/about/bypass/postop.shtml

  4. Recovering from Bariatric Surgery. University of California San Francisco Medical Center. http://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/recovering_from_bariatric_surgery/

  5. The Recommended Diet Following Bariatric Surgery. Duke University Health System. http://www.dukehealth.org/services/weight_loss_surgery/care_guides/bariatric_surgery_diet_manual/the...

  6. Virji A, Murr MM. Caring for patients after bariatric surgery. Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(8):1403-1408. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2006/0415/p1403.html

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Feb 18
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