You can expect to lose a lot of weight through bariatric surgery, but it’s not a quick fix.
Gastric sleeve surgery — also known as laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy — is one of the most commonly performed bariatric procedures. The size of the stomach is significantly reduced during this weight-loss procedure, which involves a lot of preparation.
While the surgery may seem like an ending point, it is only the beginning of your weight-loss journey. Gastric sleeve recovery alone is a very important first step.
“Each person recovers at a different pace,” says Mark Takata, MD, a bariatric surgeon at Scripps Clinic. “Being well-informed and prepared will help reduce the risk of complications and ease your recovery from laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy.”
Gastric sleeve surgery is often used to treat severely obese patients who may also be dealing with an obesity related medical condition.
For most patients, this means:
- Having a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more
- Having a BMI between 35 and 39.9 and a related medical condition. This can be type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or severe sleep apnea
Gastric sleeve surgery can help people lose a large proportion of their body weight over time. It may also help cure or improve obesity-related health problems.
Gastric sleeve surgery involves the removal of 80 percent of the stomach, which limits the amount of food you can eat, and takes one to two hours to perform.
It is usually done as a minimally invasive procedure, which involves small incisions. Such procedures generally result in less pain, less time in the hospital, fewer complications and better cosmetic results. It takes longer to recover from open surgery, which involves long incisions.
During the procedure, a bariatric surgeon makes several small incisions in the abdomen and inserts a laparoscope. This is an instrument with a tiny camera that sends pictures to a monitor. Other medical instruments are inserted to perform the surgery.
The surgeon removes a large part of the stomach and forms the remaining portion into a narrow tube. The smaller stomach limits the amount of food you can eat. The procedure also causes hormonal changes in the body that reduce appetite. “You will feel full more quickly, have better appetite control, and naturally not eat as much,” Dr. Takata says.
After the procedure, patients stay in the hospital for one night. They're monitored for any complications.
As with any surgery, gastric sleeve has potential risks, such as leaks that can lead to infection. “These risks are very low,” Dr. Takata says. “Your care team will help you deal with any side effects, such as nausea and constipation.”
Patients are also put on a special diet, from which they progress. “You’ll drink only clear liquids and protein drinks during the first five days to a week. After that, you will transition to soft and solid foods,” he says.
Before leaving the hospital, patients are given instructions to help prevent complications and told when they can resume regular activities.
“We encourage patients to walk and stay hydrated during their recovery from sleeve gastrectomy,” Dr. Takata says. “Patients may resume more vigorous activities after four to six weeks. They must also follow a specific diet.”
Patients are also advised to take three to four weeks off from work, depending on their job.
- Check with your doctor before doing any strenuous physical activities
- Join a support group for gastric sleeve patients to help you deal with changes
- Take pain medicines and any supplement prescribed exactly as told
Your doctor will tell you what dietary supplements you should take.
The first several months after gastric sleeve surgery are filled with frequent medical checkups. Patients will also notice they've lost a fair amount of weight.
“You will feel good about losing weight. Just remember this is a lifelong commitment to eating right and exercising,” Dr. Takata says.