What should I expect after bariatric surgery?

James A. Foote, MD
The severity of postoperative pain after bariatric surgery gradually diminishes over time. Most patients experience only minimal discomfort after six to eight weeks.

Feeling of fullness will occur quickly whenever you ingest food or drink. This can occur after only a few sips. Swallowed air, using a straw or carbonated beverages can cause gas to get trapped in your stomach, which will cause a feeling of extreme fullness or pain. This air will eventually pass through the intestines as gas.

The following tips will help with recovery:
  • Room temperature or warm liquids are typically better tolerated.
  • Heavier liquids such as Jello, pudding, and cream soups are typically better tolerated.
  • Do not gulp; take small sips. 
  • Do not use a straw or drink carbonated beverages.
  • Try taking a hot shower if you are experiencing significant tightness in the lower chest, it may help relax those muscles.
  • Walking often throughout the day.
Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.
After the surgery, a patient will work with the doctor to lose weight and get healthy. In this video, John Pilcher, MD, from Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital explains how exercise and diet are important to recovery.  
After bariatric surgery, you will be on IV fluid for a day or two depending on your individual progress. You will have a catheter in your bladder that usually comes out the morning after surgery. At this time you will start to be up and walking. You will have on tight knee high stockings to help prevent blood clots. You may also have compression devices on your legs while you are in bed. These devices provide a small squeeze to your legs to keep blood circulating to prevent clots.

Your post op pain is usually managed for the first 24 hours with a PCA pump or patient controlled analgesia. This allows you to control the pain management component of your care.

Physically you can expect some gas pain. This is because sterile surgical gas is used to inflate your stomach during the procedure. This gas pain can be intense. The best treatment is to move. Movement will also help the bowel wake up, allowing you to start on liquids sooner.

Before you begin to drink, a swallowing study is usually done to make sure there are no leaks in the new stomach and digestive pathway.

After 2 to 3 days, you will be tolerating liquid and very small amounts of food but you will likely be well enough to leave the hospital. 
After bariatric (weight loss) surgery, you must:
  • lead a healthy lifestyle
  • follow the recommended diet
  • stay hydrated
  • be active
Your surgeon will encourage you to get exercise each day, eat a high protein diet with small meal portions, drink 64 ounces of water and take daily vitamin/mineral supplements. You will have the support of your surgeon and weight loss team.
Attending monthly support group meetings is important. They will help you transition through the different challenges you might face such as hunger, enjoying meals with your family and other social events, and how respond to food around the holidays.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.