After Bariatric Surgery: When To Call Your SurgeonJuly 28, 2020
Undergoing a weight loss surgery procedure can be both exciting and stressful at the same time, especially for patients who are not sure what symptoms to expect right after surgery or what to look for when identifying potential problems. It is important to know when to call your surgeon whether you are a new post-op or a long-term post-op.
It is recommended that you follow every medical instruction given by your surgeon and use the time for resting, as your body is slowly healing. Early on after surgery, while in the initial recovery phase, please remember that:
- Pain and tiredness is a normal body response and pain relief medications will be instructed as needed.
- You should walk as much as possible to encourage circulation and prevent blood clots.
- You should avoid any strong physical activity such as heavy lifting, bending over, intense exercise, and sexual activity.
- It is recommended to have a friend or family member help and assist you during this time.
When to Call Your Surgeon Newly Post-Op
As mentioned, there are normal symptoms that present after surgery derived from the procedure itself and the sudden and rapid weight loss experienced during the first three to six months. These symptoms include mild pain, lack of energy, lightheadedness, hair loss, constipation, flatulence, and gas pain.
It is recommended to have a friend or family member help and assist you during this time. Temperature swings and coldness, among others, will cease over time as you continue to heal and meet all the body’s mineral, vitamins, and protein needs.
More often than not, the cause of some symptoms can be simply the fact that post-operative instructions and dietary guidelines are not being followed properly so it is essential to adhere to all the recommendations given by your doctor.
Although the majority of the cases go without complications, you should be aware of potential signs that will tell you something is not right. The most common issue that arises is infection, but there is also the possibility of a leak or perforation, so if you present any of the following side effects, please call your surgeon immediately:
- Your temperature is above 101°F (38°C).
- You have increased breathing or trouble breathing.
- You experience tachycardia, increased heart rate.
- You have excessive pain that pain medicine does not calm.
- The white part of your eyes turns yellow.
- Pus-like, thick, and/or bad smell in drainage of the wound.
- Redness, swelling, and bleeding around the incision, or if it appears larger/deeper.
- Redness, pain, or swelling in legs or arms.
- You experience continuous nausea and vomiting after eating, cramps and bloating.
- You cannot keep liquids down or tolerate any food.
- Left shoulder pain.
Important: If you believe you are having a medical emergency, please do not delay in dialing 911 or going to the ER. Once there, it is key to disclose your full medical history and details of the bariatric procedure you had done in order to decide the best treatment.
Another aspect to watch out is extreme weight loss. As the primary goal after bariatric surgery, you might see it as a great thing but we need to keep in mind the normal average weight loss parameters during the first few months and make sure there is no underlying cause for a severe drop in weight.
When to Call Your Surgeon Long-Term Post-Op
After you have recovered from your procedure, you will slowly transition back to your normal life and keep on adjusting to your new stomach. For the rest of your life, it is important to remember you are a bariatric patient and that routine annual visits with your surgeon and blood work should be scheduled to make sure your levels are adequate and nutritional needs are covered.
Especially with the gastric bypass, due to the malabsorptive nature of the procedure and the reduced amount of food, you will not be able to meet all the body’s vitamins and protein needs. It is essential that you take supplements for life in order to keep you healthy and prevent any potential deficiencies that could cause anemia, dizziness, lethargy and other conditions.
If you feel any of these, please contact your medical team to see what modifications to your diet and supplements doses need to be prescribed. The inability to tolerate food and abdominal pain are also reasons to seek further consultation in the months following your operation. During this time, please call your provider if:
- You are vomiting regularly after consuming food.
- You have diarrhea that is not disappearing.
- You are constantly tired and have no energy.
- You feel dizzy all the time.
- You have chest pains or severe gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)/heartburn.
- You are sweating all the time.
- You develop severe abdominal pain.
Coming back from weight loss surgery is a process and your role as patient is crucial when detecting problems on time before they become serious. While we advise you to stay positive and motivated during your recovery, we recommend you to also be vigilant of any potential red flags and to call your bariatric surgeon immediately if you feel anything out of the ordinary.
ABOUT THE AUTHORDr. Daniel Campos, MD is a highly regarded bariatric surgeon practicing in Coahuila, Mexico. He is the founder and Chief Surgeon at Obesity Care Group one of the leading obesity centers in northern Mexico. He is a member of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), the International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders (IFSO), and the Mexican College for Obesity and Metabolic Diseases (CMCOEM).