How You Should Follow Up After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Aug 23, 2017 — by Daniel Huacuz, MD
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Waking up in the recovery unit after an intensive surgery is always disorienting, with a drip, catheter and monitor attached to your body and nurses constantly circling to check on your status. Understanding your next steps can be difficult no matter how many times you went over the process before.

Thankfully your surgeon will be here to guide you through the period of post surgery. There are many key areas that a doctor will want you to focus on and follow up with in subsequent consultations. We’ve compiled a list of things to pay particular attention to.

Pain and Discomfort

Gastric sleeve surgery normally involves a series of 5 or 6 cuts along the abdomen; the largest of these incisions is made where your surgeon removes a large portion of your stomach. This is also where you can expect the most pain immediately following surgery. The cuts will have been sutured and treated to allow them to heal; you will also be experiencing the after-effects of anesthesia which may include nausea.

As the anesthetic wears off, you will feel more of the pain and soreness especially as you pivot your body. The amount of pain will vary according to the invasiveness of your surgery. Nurse administered pain medication will usually be available at this point on demand, but as you recover more this will be replaced with oral medication.

As you go into your first week post-surgery you’ll usually experience the peak of pain and bruising especially around the largest of your scars. If you experience any severe discomfort or pain not related to these incisions immediately consult with your surgeon. You will be provided with painkillers, anti-nausea and anti-acid medication to deal with the worst of these effects.

As you get back into your routine you will of course experience niggling pains due to the stretching of scar tissue. However this should be bearable by this point and usually subsides completely by your second month post-surgery.

Diet

This can be the hardest part for many patients to maintain, after surgery your surgeon will usually set a diet for you that is geared around the prevention of any complications, such as nausea, gastric leaks and cramping. For your own protection, it is extremely important you follow the doctor’s recommendations despite any reservations you might have.

Much like the period immediately preceding your surgery the first week after your gastric sleeve will usually see you restricted to clear liquids such as water, sugarless Jell-O, broth and decaffeinated drinks. Sugar should be avoided at this point.

During the second week, you can incorporate protein shakes and very soft foods into the rotation. Soft noodles, apple sauce and watery oatmeal are all permitted. Again, sugar is strictly prohibited.

At Week 3, other solid foods will enter the mix as you recover most of your hunger. Protein shakes, soft vegetables and mashed fruit, softened meat soups and yoghurts will all be staples of your diet. Make sure to keep your protein consumption high, limit your fat and sugar intake where possible.

By Week 4 you’ll be able to reintegrate most normal food into your diet, though we definitely recommend steering clear of oily junk food, and snacks with high sugar content. Your stomach is still highly sensitive so remember to eat slowly, and cut your food into small chunks, 3 small meals a day will normally be enough.

Activity

In the days immediately following your surgery you will be understandably restricted in your movements, due to pain and the need for rest and recuperation.

As you move past the initial recovery, your surgeon will usually recommend walking 3-5 times a day for about 5-10 minutes at a time, no strenuous exercise is recommended at this point.

At about the 2 month mark, you will be given the go ahead for all forms of light exercise and cardiovascular work. You will normally be back to your usual work routine by this point as most of the pain will have subsided. Swimming is particularly recommended by surgeons at this stage due to its low impact and high cardiovascular benefits.

Moving into the future, regular exercise should become a staple of your lifestyle. By also sticking to many of the dietary tips offered in the later part of your diet plan, you will be able to sustain your weight loss and maximize its benefits.

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