Frequently Asked Questions about Weight Loss Surgery

How many days will I stay in the hospital?

The surgeon evaluates each patient individually. However, here are the average lengths of stay:
Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass – home post-op on day 2
Open Gastric Bypass – home post-op on day 3 or 4
Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding – home post-op on day 1
Sleeve Gastrectomy – home post-op on day 1 or 2

How much time will I need to recover after surgery? How long will it be before I can return to work?

Patients are usually able to resume normal daily activities, including returning to work, two to three weeks after surgery. If you work in an office setting that requires little to no strenuous activity, you should be able to return to work after two weeks. Your surgeon must clear you to return to work.

Do all weight-loss surgery patients lose their hair?

The reason patients lose hair post-op is because of the stress of surgery, rapid weight loss, as well as vitamin deficiencies and a decrease in the consumption of protein. You will see the greatest amount of hair thinning around three to six months after surgery. That is why we stress the importance of taking in at least 60-80 grams of protein per day and taking your vitamins religiously! Some patients find it beneficial to take biotin and/or use specialized hair products.

How long after surgery should I be able to swim? In a pool? In the ocean? Snorkeling?

You can swim and take a bath when all wounds are completely healed and closed. You must have your surgeon’s clearance first.

Realistically, how much weight should I be able to lose successfully with weight-loss surgery and keep it off long-term?

If you are like most people, you should be able to lose up to 70-80% of your excess weight with a gastric bypass. Weight loss is slightly less with the gastric band and sleeve gastrectomy. Excess weight is your current weight, minus your ideal body weight. Typically, long-term patients might regain a few pounds at about two years after surgery. With a true commitment and diligence with diet and exercise, patients can have long-term success.

I have read about people being so miserable post-op and not being able to eat virtually ANY food without getting ill. Is this common? Does this go away with time?

Immediately after surgery, a few patients are nauseated because of reactions to anesthesia or narcotic pain medicines. Once home from surgery, nausea or vomiting is usually due to patients not following diet recommendations.

Once the insurance approves the surgery, is there a time limit for the surgery to be performed?

Yes, insurance companies have a time limit on how long they will wait to approve the procedure before you must resubmit the request.

I read that you shouldn’t drink carbonated beverages after weight-loss surgery. Is this a lifetime restriction? Is it okay if you let them “go flat” first?

We recommend that you do not drink carbonated beverages. There are two good reasons for this: Carbonated sodas have phosphorus, which in excess will deplete calcium from the bones. Also, carbonation could stretch the pouch. You can let the beverage “go flat” first; however, it usually doesn’t taste very good.

Are sugarless beverages and foods — such as those sweetened with Splenda or NutraSweet — OK after weight-loss surgery?

All of the artificial sweeteners are OK to use. After gastric bypass surgery, patients will substitute sugary liquids with those sweetened with artificial sweeteners due to the propensity for simple sugars to trigger the dumping syndrome. We recommend that patients undergoing gastric banding use artificial sweeteners, as well, to decrease calorie intake.

How common is diarrhea after a gastric bypass? Years ago, I remember reading and hearing about people having “stomach stapling” procedures and then having terrible diarrhea for the rest of their lives.

We rarely see persistent diarrhea with gastric bypass. Other bariatric procedures, such as the duodenal switch or intestinal bypass, can cause an extensive amount of diarrhea. Diarrhea after gastric bypass usually is caused by lactose intolerance or a patient not following diet guidelines (such as by eating greasy foods and sugars).

I’ve read that you must take vitamin supplements for the rest of your life after weight-loss surgery. Are these special prescriptions that you purchase through your health insurance plan, or do you buy them over the counter? Some of them are very large pills; do some of them come in liquid or chewable form to make them easier to take after surgery?

Our medical director recommends chewable bariatric vitamins. These are specifically designed for bariatric patients. Following your discharge from the hospital, you will need to start taking a bariatric multivitamin twice a day, as well as calcium every day. Menstruating females should take a bariatric iron supplement. Make sure you take your calcium separately from your other vitamins. You will discuss this with the dietician.

Tell me about your support program for bariatric patients

We have a support group available to you that is located here in the Stergios Building at Desert Regional. We try to provide an educational topic, as well as a time to get to know your fellow patients. All group leaders are licensed professionals.

What post-op rechecks are done?

Our medical director recommends the following schedule: Office visits are at one week, six weeks, three months, six months, nine months, 12 months, 18 months and yearly for at least the first five years after surgery — and preferably for life. Upper GIs are done prior to discharge from the hospital and then on an as-needed basis only.

I don’t have receipts for my previous weight-loss attempts. Will this be a problem when I seek approval from my insurance carrier?

Some insurance carriers require records and some do not. You should call your carrier to determine their specific requirements.

Do you know if my insurance carrier requires a psychiatric evaluation before approving the surgery?

We require that every patient get a psychological evaluation prior to surgery.

Are the nurses specially trained to care for bariatric patients?

Yes, all of our nurses have specific training in the care of bariatric surgery patients. They are very competent and caring.

Will I be in a private or semi-private room in the hospital?

All of our rooms for bariatric patients are private.

Do I need to exercise after weight-loss surgery?

Yes. Exercise is essential to your success. Walking is a great place to start. Try to set up a plan prior to your surgery and get started with a routine. It will definitely help with your recovery.

Helpful Websites




Recommended Reading

Weight Loss Surgery for Dummies
Marina S. Kurian, MD, Barbara Thompson and Brian K. Davidson

Eating Well After Weight Loss Surgery: Over 140 Delicious Low-Fat, High-Protein Recipes to Enjoy in the Weeks, Months, and Years After Surgery
Patt Levine, et al 

Before & After: Living & Eating Well After Weight-Loss Surgery
Susan Maria Leach

The Success Habits of Weight-Loss Surgery Patients
Colleen M. Cook

The Emotional First + Aid Kit: A Practical Guide to Life After Bariatric Surgery, Second Edition
Cynthia L. Alexander 

The High-Protein Cookbook
Linda West Eckhardt and Katherine West DeFoyd

Culinary Classics: Essentials of Cooking for the Gastric Bypass Patient
David Fouts

How Much Does Your Soul Weigh?: Diet-Free Solutions to Your Food, Weight, and Body Worries
Dorie McCubbrey

If I’m So Smart, Why Can’t I Lose Weight?: Tools to Get It Done
Brooke Castillo

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