Post Operative Recovery Hints


As patients, we all bring different medical, psychological, and emotional issues/conditions with us prior to surgery.  Sometimes, these issues/conditions influence how quickly we recover from major abdominal surgery.  It is impossible to predict what events I will encounter postoperatively; hopefully this information will address some of the more common occurrences.

Some patients enter into surgery with unrealistic postoperative expectations.  Even if expectations are realistic it is normal for people to "hope for the best outcome" when entering surgery.  Gastric bypass is major abdominal surgery.  Just because I chose to have surgery, or because it is "less invasive" doesn't change the fact that my body will require time to adjust.  I will have nausea and pain, experience some fatigue and depression may occur.  These occurrences are generally short-lived and are frequently seen.  These adjustments take time.

As I mentioned above, expectations for "the time to heal" may be distorted.  It is true that with the laparoscopic approach, physical healing time may be faster than with the open technique (two to four weeks instead of four to six weeks).  Forming a scab however does not constitute complete healing.  I might feel fatigue, experience nausea and even vomit frequently for the first 2 to 12 weeks following the operation.  It is important that I do not expect to go back to work at full speed right away.  I might be able to go back to work as early as two to four weeks, but I may need longer.  I have contingency plans in place.

My new stomach is irritable for the first several weeks following surgery.  I will start on clear liquids (water broth and Jell-O) for a week, then advanced to soft proteins and eventually to all varieties of food.  The stomach's healing process is similar to the new baby learning to eat.  Some babies spit up a lot, and some new bypass babies, vomit a lot in the beginning.  Some new babies are colicky with abdominal cramping; the same may be true for some new bypass babies.  Gastric surgery may cause me to experience a heightened sense of smell.  Food, perfume and cigarette smoke may be offensive and cause nausea.  If nausea or complete lack of appetite occurs in the early postoperative phase, it will generally resolve in 4-6 weeks.  I will have to be patient with my new anatomy.  By three to four months nearly everyone is able to tolerate most food well.

I might feel frustrated, weepy and even depressed after surgery.  This is a common occurrence, and a normal part of the physical and emotional healing process.  For a very long-time I have been focused on having this life altering procedure.  I may feel an emotional let down as my energy reserves are drained.  Hopefully, this too will pass, and in a few weeks to months my energy and positive attitude will return.  Psychological support, counselling and/or medications may be helpful for me.

If I am one of the patients that feel more pain than I expected, or experience nausea or depression, I must remember this can be normal.  What I eat today may stay down and the exact same meal tomorrow may not.