What is Gastric Sleeve Recovery Time Like?

Weight-loss surgery is start of lifelong changes in diet, lifestyle

A young woman who underwent gastric sleeve surgery celebrates her success during recovery.

Weight-loss surgery is start of lifelong changes in diet, lifestyle

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.

While the surgery may seem like an ending point, it is only the beginning of the weight-loss journey. Gastric sleeve recovery alone is a significant 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.”

Who is a candidate for gastric sleeve surgery?

Several types of bariatric procedures are available for people who are eligible and need to lose a lot of weight. Each procedure has its own set of techniques and considerations.

Gastric sleeve surgery is often used to treat severely obese patients who may also be dealing with an obesity-related medical condition. The procedure not only helps people lose a large amount of weight, but it also helps cure or improve obesity-related health problems.

To be a candidate, you must:

  • Have a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or more
  • Have a BMI between 30 and 34.9 and a related medical condition, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or severe sleep apnea.
  • Be willing to participate in long-term follow up care
  • Be willing to make considerable lifestyle changes to prevent weight gain

How does gastric sleeve surgery work?

Gastric sleeve surgery involves the removal of 80 percent of the stomach, which limits the amount of food you can eat.

The procedure takes one to two hours to perform. It is usually done as a minimally invasive procedure, which involves small incisions.

This generally results in:

  • Less pain
  • Less time in the hospital
  • Fewer complications
  • 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 sleeve-shaped 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.

What is gastric sleeve recovery like?

After the procedure, patients stay for one night in the hospital, where they are monitored.

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 put on a special diet. “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.

Gastric sleeve recovery at home

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 advised to take three to four weeks off from work. This also depends on their job.

Ensuring long-term weight loss

The first several months after gastric sleeve surgery are filled with frequent medical checkups. Patients will 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.

Remember this as you proceed with your weight-loss journey:

  • Check with your doctor before doing any strenuous 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

Some patients may have excess loose skin after surgery and want it removed. Exercise can help improve skin elasticity, but cosmetic surgery is also an option. Usually this is an outpatient procedure.

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