It’s estimated that more than 150,000 gastric bypass surgeries are performed annually. This type of bariatric surgery has proven to be one of the most useful tools for weight loss for individuals struggling with obesity. The procedure reduces significantly the size of the stomach and causes food to bypass a portion of the small intestine. This bypass results in a feeling of fullness more quickly and reduces the amount of food that can be consumed at one time. The bypass also decreases how much food and nutrients are absorbed into the body that ultimately translates into weight loss.
This post-operative guide is meant to be a general overview of what to expect following this bariatric procedure. There are various approaches to the gastric bypass procedure depending on a surgeon’s training and background. Specific medical direction related to food consumption, medications, supplements and activity recommendations following surgery also vary depending on the particular type of bypass undergone.
Care of Surgical Incisions
The most important factor in caring for surgical incisions following a bypass procedure involves keeping them clean via a daily shower. Avoid soaking in a bathtub until the incisions are fully healed which will likely occur in 3 to 4 weeks. Pat the incisions dry with a towel following a shower. Covering the area with sterile gauze and tape can help absorb any drainage. It also assists in reducing irritation caused from the waistband of pants. Avoid any creams or ointments on the affected area unless they are recommended by your surgeon.
Discomfort related to other incisions is common and may occur when an individual participates in activities such as walking. Physical activity, as prescribed by your doctor, is critical for recovery. The left lower incision involved in a laparoscopic procedure is often one of the most painful. This is the largest incision involved in the laparoscopic approach and requires sizeable internal stitches within the muscle. The use of supportive undergarments prescribed pain medications, and heating pads may aid in relieving these discomforts.
Some gastric bypass procedures may require the use of drains to help facilitate the healing process. Secure the pipe with tape before showering. Again, avoid bathing in a tub until incisions are healed.
Drainage and Infections
Drainage from incision sites may occur for a short period post-op. Clear pink or bright yellow drainage that leaks or even flows during exertion is not abnormal. Drainage that appears green, brown, cloudy, or is accompanied by a foul odor is something to be concerning. Contact your surgeon if these symptoms occur. Redness that radiates from incision sites and is accompanied by the warmth of the skin are also symptoms that warrant a closer look a medical professional to ensure that an infection is not present.
Liquid diarrhea for up to a week following surgery is another common occurrence. Stools should return to normal once the introduction of solid foods into the diet begins. Cramping, bloody stools, or liquid stool that persists for more than a week requires the notification of the follow-up doctor.
The surgeon who performs your surgery will likely encourage you to walk very soon following a gastric bypass surgery. Activity reduces the risks of blood clots and pneumonia postoperatively. Your surgeon will prescribe specific recommendations for activity. Deep breathing exercises performed with the use of an incentive spirometer are also a standard tool to guard against pneumonia. Again, your surgeon will have specific recommendations.
Eating and Drinking
It is common practice to limit patients to water, broth, protein drinks and gelatin for the first couple of days following gastric bypass surgery. It is important to consume plenty of protein and fluids to avoid dehydration. It is also crucial to adhere to the diet restrictions. Eating foods that have not been recommended by your healthcare provider could cause grave consequences immediately following surgery. Additional foods will be advanced according to the schedule outlined by your surgeon.
Your doctor will likely provide you with prescription pain medication for pain management following surgery. It may be easier to swallow pills with warm broth instead of cold water. It’s critical to keep your pain under control so that you can tolerate the physical activity regimen recommended by your surgeon. Your doctor may also prescribe a medication such as Pepcid to reduce the production of stomach acids during the early weeks of recovery.
It is important to stay away from drugs that have not been authorized by your surgeon. Some medications could be dangerous following a gastric bypass surgery. Anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, and cold medications containing Ibuprofen), Aspirin and Naprosyn (Aleve) should be avoided unless authorized by your doctor.
Contacting your Doctor
Contact your surgeon immediately if any of the following occur following gastric bypass surgery:
- Elevated fever above 101.5
- Abnormal drainage or swelling of incision sites
- Pain in the legs or swelling of the legs
- Pain in the abdominal area or swelling
- Prolonged vomiting
- Pain or a burning sensation when urinating
- Difficulty breathing
- Coughing up green or brown mucous or phlegm
Guide to Gastric Bypass Surgery:
- Gastric Bypass Surgery Price
- Gastric Bypass Risks, Complications
- Side Effects of Gastric Bypass
- Pre-Op Diet of Gastric Bypass
- Post-Op Diet of Gastric Bypass
- Gastric Bypass Patient Pictures
- Recovery after Gastric Bypass