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Sleeve Gastrectomy: What to Expect at Home

Your Recovery

Sleeve gastrectomy is surgery to remove part of the stomach to help with weight loss. The surgery limits the amount of food your stomach can hold.

You will have some belly pain and may need pain medicine for the first week or so after surgery. The cuts (incisions) that the doctor made may be tender and sore.

Because the surgery makes your stomach smaller, you will get full more quickly when you eat.

It is important to think of this surgery as a tool to help you lose weight. It is not an instant fix. You will still need to eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise. This will help you reach your weight goal and avoid regaining the weight you lose.

It is common to have many different emotions after this surgery. You may feel happy or excited as you begin to lose weight. But you may also feel overwhelmed or frustrated by the changes that you have to make in your diet, activity, and lifestyle. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns or questions.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • Try to walk each day. Start out by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
  • Avoid lifting anything that would make you strain. This may include heavy grocery bags and milk containers, a heavy briefcase or backpack, cat litter or dog food bags, a vacuum cleaner, or a child.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, until your doctor says it is okay. Do not take part in any activity where you could be hit in the belly. This could be sports or playing with children.
  • Hold a pillow over your incision when you cough or take deep breaths. This will support your belly and decrease your pain.
  • Do breathing exercises at home as instructed by your doctor. This will help prevent pneumonia.
  • You can shower. Pat the incision dry. Do not take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.
  • You may drive when you are no longer taking prescription pain medicine and can quickly move your foot from the gas pedal to the brake. You must also be able to sit comfortably for a long period of time, even if you do not plan to go far. You might get caught in traffic.
  • You will probably need to take 2 to 4 weeks off from work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.
  • Ask your doctor when it is okay for you to have sex.

Diet

  • Your doctor or dietitian will give you specific instructions about what to eat after the surgery. For about the first 14 days, you will need to follow a liquid diet. Bit by bit, you will be able to add solid foods back into your diet.
  • Talk to the dietitian on your bariatric surgery healthcare team about how to change from a liquid diet to a solid one, and what will work best for you.
  • When you begin adding soft solid foods, start with only a small portion of solid food at one time (about 2–3 bites).
  • Eat small portions at least 4 times each day. If you’re eating very little, you may need to eat 5 to 6 times each day.
  • At first, you may tolerate softer, moist foods better. Here are some you can try: eggs, fish, cottage cheese, mashed potato, soft fresh fruit (peeled).
  • Try one new food at a time. If a food causes discomfort, write it down in your journal and try the food again another time. Keep eating the foods that worked for you.
  • Some foods may cause discomfort because the texture of the food is difficult to chew well after surgery. For example, tough, chewy, stringy, sticky, or gummy foods. Your tolerance to different foods may or may not change over time.
  • Separate solids foods and liquids. Don’t drink with meals and snacks. Wait 30 minutes after eating solid food before drinking. Sip on fluids between meals.
  • Avoid carbonated beverages, such as pop, mineral water, and beer.
  • Avoid drinking with straws. This may help you swallow less air when you drink.
  • Check with your doctor before drinking alcohol. Your body may absorb alcohol more quickly after surgery.
  • If you have concerns about your bowel movements or constipation, talk to your healthcare team.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if and when to start taking it again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines contain acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
    • Do not take aspirin (Asaphen, Entrophen), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve) until your doctor says it is okay.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

Incision care

  • If you have strips of tape on the incision, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • Wash the area daily with warm, soapy water and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing. You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it weeps or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day.
  • Keep the area clean and dry.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You are short of breath.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You cannot pass stool or gas.
  • You are sick to your stomach and cannot drink fluids.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • You have signs of a blood clot, such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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