The Day of Weight Loss Surgery: What to Expect

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You have made the decision and the day is on the calendar. Weight loss surgery can be life changing. It can resolve many obesity-related problems and increase your quality of life. It can also feel overwhelming as the day of weight loss surgery approaches. Knowing what to expect can help you prepare mentally and physically.

The 24 hours before surgery

By the time you get to the day before surgery, you’ve already made a lot of changes in your life. Most bariatric surgeons will put you on a diet before surgery to reduce abdominal fat and the size of the liver. You usually start this diet two to three weeks beforehand. Most surgeons also recommend stopping smoking a month or so before surgery. It will help the healing process go more smoothly.

In the 24 to 48 hours before surgery, your doctor will likely put you on a liquid diet. It will include options like clear broth, sugar-free flavored gelatins, low-sugar sports drinks, black coffee, and of course, water. You will probably have to stop all eating and drinking after midnight before your surgery. If you eat or drink too close to your surgery time, your doctor may need to reschedule it for your safety.

Your doctor probably stopped many of your medicines a week before surgery. Be sure to ask which ones you should continue. You may need to continue some medicines, such as heart or blood pressure drugs, even on the day of surgery. Taking them with sips of water will not interfere with your surgery.

Finally, take some time to prepare yourself. It will be challenging to bathe and care for yourself after surgery. Get a shower the morning of surgery and wash your hair. Enjoy a little last-minute pampering before you head to the hospital.

What to bring to the hospital

You will need to pack a bag with personal items you may want during your hospital stay. This could include things like a brush or comb, your glasses, and your own toiletries and toothbrush. For your comfort, you could pack underwear, a robe, and your own slippers if they are non-slip and easy to put on. To keep yourself occupied, bring along a book, magazines, puzzle books, or cell phone. You will also need an outfit with shoes to wear home. Make sure you can dress in it easily and it has plenty of room. Leave your medicines, money, jewelry, and other valuables at home.

You will need to bring some paperwork to the hospital as well. This includes your insurance card and photo identification. It’s also a good idea to have a list of your allergies and medications. You should include all prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. If you have an advanced directive or living will, bring it too.

The day of surgery

When you arrive at the hospital, you will go to a preoperative area. There you will change into a hospital gown. A nurse will help you get ready for surgery. It will be necessary to get your weight before surgery for a final preoperative BMI (body mass index) calculation. The nurse may also perform a brief exam and can answer any questions you have. You will also talk with an anesthesiologist about your medical history and the anesthesia you will have. Your surgeon will come talk with you as well.

You will get an IV (intravenous) line in the preoperative area. Your team may give you an IV sedative to help you relax before they take you to the OR (operating room). Your family can usually stay with you until it’s time to go to the OR. You will be on a stretcher for transport to the OR. Once there, your team will start general anesthesia. You won’t remember anything else until you wake up in the recovery room. In most cases, your family can see you once you are awake and alert.

It’s common to stay in the hospital after weight loss surgery. When the team thinks you are ready, a transport team will take you to your hospital room. Hospital stays after weight loss surgery can last several days.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Mar 14
  1. Bariatric Surgery. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/bariatric-surgery/about/pac-20394258
  2. Bariatric Surgery FAQs. American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. https://asmbs.org/patients/bariatric-surgery-faqs
  3. Bariatric Surgery Procedures. American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. https://asmbs.org/patients/bariatric-surgery-procedures
  4. Benefits of Bariatric Surgery. American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. https://asmbs.org/patients/benefits-of-bariatric-surgery
  5. FAQs: Bariatric Surgery. NorthShore University Health System. https://www.northshore.org/bariatric-surgery-services/procedures/gastric-bypass-surgery/faqs-gastric-bypass-surgery/
  6. Pre-Op Education for Bariatric Surgery. Cornell Weill Medical Center. http://www.cornellweightlosssurgery.org/doc/PreopPresentation.pdf
  7. Your Surgery: From Planning to Post-Operative Care. Columbia University Irving Medical Center. http://columbiasurgery.org/weight-loss/post-operative-care


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