Bariatric Surgery Hospital Stay - All You Need to Know
Reviewed by: John M. Rabkin, MD, FACS
It’s normal to be nervous before your bariatric surgery hospital stay. But you have chosen your team of doctors and hospital well and you have everything in place, so please try to relax
Here’s what to expect on surgery day…
Note: This page applies to the more aggressive weight loss surgery procedures including gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, duodenal switch and gastric banding (Lap Band). Click here for information about the typical gastric balloon hospital experience.
Stage 1 : Pre-Op Bariatric Team Will Begin Prepping You For Surgery, Meet with Anesthesiologist And Surgeon
Once you arrive at the hospital, your team of nurses will prepare you to go to the operating room. You will meet with the anesthesiologist and your surgeon before surgery. The nursing staff will talk with you and let you know what to expect and will check your vital signs.
There’s usually a wait of at least 2 hours before you’re taken into (or asked to walk to) the operating room. Try to get up and take a couple of short walks while you’re waiting.
After you walk or are rolled into the operating room on your moveable bed, you will be transferred over to the operating room table. Your team will put warm blankets on you to keep you warm.
The anesthesiologist will give you the anesthesia that will keep you fast asleep during surgery.
Your surgery can last from 1 to 4 hours depending on your procedure and your health condition:
- Gastric sleeve surgery : Averages 2 hours
- Gastric bypass surgery : Averages 4 hours
- Gastric banding surgery (e.g. Lap Band) : Averages less than 1 hour
- Duodenal switch surgery : Average less than 1 hour
- Gastric Balloon : Averages 3.5 to 4 hours
- vBloc Therapy : Average 1 to 1.5 hours
- AspireAssist : Average less than 1 hour
Your surgical team will update your family members or friends who are waiting.
During your initial 2 to 3 hours of recovery, you will receive one-on-one attention to manage your pain and monitor your vital signs. You will likely not remember this part much, if at all.
The average hospital stay is 1 to 3 nights which varies depending on type of surgery and your overall condition.
You can expect to have some pain at your incision site(s), and your muscles may be sore from lying on the operating table. Not to worry… your surgeon will prescribe pain medications through your IV. They may even provide the ability to “self-administer” the pain medication as needed by pushing a button connected to your IV.
To minimize pain, it’s best to stay ahead of it. In other words, don’t wait until the pain begins before asking for medication – ask for it ahead of time.
You can also expect to have antibiotics, IV fluids, plastic tubes that will deliver oxygen through your nose, a urinary catheter to drain your urine and an abdominal binder to help your incisions heal. Your nurses may also have you wear compressive devices around your legs to help prevent blood clots.
Your surgeon will probably order nothing to eat or drink for the first 24 hours.
You will have get up and walk after surgery, usually within the first 8 to 10 hours and then several times per day thereafter. This very important step helps to prevent blood clots, wakes your body up from anesthesia, gets your intestines to start working again and improves breathing.
Your nurses will also help you through other exercises to reduce the risk of complications such as breathing, coughing and leg exercises.
Your doctors will check in on you every day to make sure you are healing properly. As soon as you’re able to start sipping water, your IV will be removed.
The day after surgery, many surgeons will order a “leak test” for you to make sure your digestive system is functioning well. Once you pass this test, you can begin drinking clear fluids.
All in all, your team will make sure you’re well-prepared ahead of time and that you know exactly what to expect. But if you have any questions or concerns, let your nurses know. They’ll be able to provide the medication necessary, will help put your mind at ease and will know when to call the surgeon if any issues come up.
Congratulations… you did it! You’re on the road to recovery and your new life.
Any pain will slowly diminish and you’ll start feeling a little better each day.
Don’t forget to pick up your pain medications on the way home if you don’t already have them.
If your ride home is a long one, stop at least once every 2 hours to get out and stretch.