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Discharge Instructions for Bariatric (Obesity) Surgery

You have had a procedure called bariatric surgery. During this procedure, a doctor surgically changed your stomach (and maybe your small intestine as well) so it can only hold a small amount of food at one time, absorb a certain amount of food at one time, or both, depending on the type of operation you had. This should help you lose weight and decrease your risk of health problems, such as diabetes, respiratory problems, and coronary artery disease. This surgery will make it difficult for you to eat large amounts of solid foods. After the surgery, you must eat very small meals. Eating too much food or too fast may cause unpleasant symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, or pain in your upper belly (abdomen). You'll need to make lifelong behavior changes to keep off the weight you lost through bariatric surgery. 

Changes in How You Eat

  • Follow the diet that was prescribed for you in the hospital. You may need to have only liquids for 2 weeks after the surgery, or you may be able to eat pureed foods. 

  • Drink liquids in smaller amounts than you used to. This will make it easier for your body to digest liquids. But, it is important that you continue to drink liquids (in small amounts) throughout the day so that you do not become dehydrated. Some signs of dehydration include dry mouth and dark urine.

  • Eat slowly. Plan on taking at least 20 to 30 minutes to finish a meal. Eating too much or too fast will cause nausea and vomiting.

  • Avoid the unpleasant effects of dumping syndrome, which can happen after a bariatric operation. The syndrome refers to abdominal pain, nausea, sweating, and bloating that occur after eating foods high in sugar, such as ice cream and milkshakes. Diarrhea sometimes happens 60 to 90 minutes after eating. In some instances, fainting can also occur. So avoid foods that could cause this.

  • Take vitamin supplements as directed by your doctor.  

Activity

  • Keep in mind that recovery takes several weeks. It is normal to feel tired. Rest as needed.

  • Walk as often as you feel able. Increase your activity slowly.

  • Do not lift anything heavier than 10 pounds.

  • Avoid strenuous chores, such as vacuuming or lifting full bags of garbage, until your doctor says it’s OK.

  • Climb stairs slowly and pause after every few steps.

  • Start an exercise program 1 to 2 weeks after discharge. You can benefit from simple activities, such as walking or gardening. Ask your doctor how and when to get started.

  • Ask your doctor when you can expect to return to work.

Home Care

  • Continue the coughing and deep breathing exercises you learned in the hospital.

  • Shower as needed. But avoid baths, swimming pools, and hot tubs for 1 to 2 weeks after going home. This helps prevent infection of the incision site.

  • Keep the incision clean and dry. Wash the incision gently with mild soap and warm water. Then gently pat the incision dry with a towel.

  • Follow your doctor’s instructions about caring for the dressing covering your incisions.

  • If your doctor used Steri-Strips (small white adhesive strips) to close the incision, do not remove them. Let the strips fall off on their own. If they don’t come off within 2 weeks after you were sent home, call your doctor.

  • Take your medications in crushed or liquid form for 3 weeks after surgery and as instructed.

  • Keep in mind that your medications will need to be adjusted as you lose weight. Ask your doctor about what changes you should make in your medications. 

  • If you use a CPAP or BiPAP machine for sleep apnea, don't stop using it without talking to your doctor. 

  • Learn to take your own pulse. Keep a record of your results. Ask your doctor which readings mean that you need medical attention.

  • Ask your doctor when you can start driving again. Don't drive if you are taking pain medication.

 

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Cloudy or smelly drainage from the incision site

  • Redness, pain, or increased swelling at the incision site

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or shaking chills

  • Fast pulse

  • Night sweats

  • Sudden difficulty breathing or chest pain 

  • Swelling or pain in your calves 

  • Persistent pain, nausea, or vomiting after eating

  • Diarrhea beyond the first week after discharge

  • Pain in your upper back, chest, or left shoulder

  • Persistent hiccups

  • Confusion, depression, or unusual fatigue

  • Signs of bladder infection (urinating more often than usual; burning, pain, bleeding, or hesitancy when you urinate)

Online Medical Reviewer: Hanrahan, John, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 3/3/2014
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