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Bariatric Surgery

Frequently Asked Questions

Bariatric Surgery FAQs

Weight Loss Surgery

What is bariatric surgery?
Weight loss surgery alters the body’s digestive process by limiting the amount of food the stomach can hold and/or by limiting the absorption of nutrients. The most common procedures are restrictive, malabsorptive or a combination of both procedures. Restrictive procedures reduce the amount of food the stomach can hold but don’t interfere with the body’s normal digestion of food and nutrients. Malabsorptive procedures bypass most of the small intestine so that fewer calories and nutrients are absorbed. Combined procedures restrict food intake as well as the number of calories and nutrients the body absorbs. 
How do I know if I am a candidate for bariatric surgery?
 Candidates are at least 100 pounds overweight. That translates to a body mass index of 40 or over. You should have previously attempted to lose weight through traditional methods, including dieting, nutritional counseling, and commercial or hospital-based weight-loss programs. Candidates may have a body mass index of 35 and over if they have medical problems that are associated with obesity, such as hypertension and diabetes. People with an inflammatory disease, severe heart or lung disease, esophageal, stomach or intestinal problems, cirrhosis or who are pregnant are not candidates.
What are my options for weight loss surgery?
The most common operations for bariatric surgery are the gastric bypass, the gastric sleeve, and the duodenal switch. You can read more about these procedures by visiting our Surgical weight loss page. 
How much weight can I expect to lose?
That depends on the procedure and the individual. Patients who have the gastric bypass can expect to lose 70 to 75% of their excess weight, patients who have the gastric sleeve can expect to lose 65 to 75% of their excess weight, and patients who have the duodenal switch can expect to lose 80 to 100% of their excess weight. The gastric band and gastric balloon do result in weight loss but not as significant as the more invasive procedures such as the bypass, sleeve, and duodenal switch. Patients who have the gastric band can expect to lose 40% of their excess weight while patients with the gastric balloon can anticipate a weight loss of 20 to 30% of their excess weight. 
What are the risks or complications associated with surgery?
The most common complication associated with adjustable gastric banding is the enlargement of the stomach pouch, which can occur if the stomach slips up through the band. However, modifications to the technique have been made to prevent this from occurring. There have also been cases where the band erodes into the stomach. In regards to the invasive bariatric procedures such as the gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, and duodenal switch, there is a risk of blood clots, internal bleeding, and gastric leaks. Less serious complications include minor wound infections, excess skin, vomiting or nausea, acid reflux, development of gallstones, nutritional deficiencies. 
How do I know which surgery is right for me?
A commonly asked bariatric surgery FAQs. A patient’s medical history and weight are used to determine which surgery is the best option. It is also important to talk with your surgeon to decide which option is right for you.
How much do the procedures cost? Will insurance cover it?
Weight-loss procedures cost from $20,000 to $35,000. Medical insurance coverage varies by state and insurance provider. In February 2006, Medicare expanded its coverage to include, laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding and open and laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. However, these surgeries are covered by Medicare only if performed in a hospital or by a practice that is judged by the Surgical Review Corporation to be a Center of Excellence, so be sure to verify that your surgeon is affiliated with one of these centers.
Will weight loss surgery improve my health?
Weight loss surgery can eliminate or improve most obesity-related medical complications, including diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, reflux, and osteoarthritis, as well as stress incontinence, dermatitis, muscle, and joint pain. Improvements in body image and a reduction in the symptoms of depression have also been reported. Weight loss may also be associated with improved fertility and more favorable pregnancy outcomes. 
What should I ask about my physician's qualifications?
Find out how many years of experience they have in the field, the number of operations they have performed and how many times they have performed a specific procedure. The surgeon you choose should be experienced with the procedure you are considering. You should also determine if they are board-certified, and if they are members of the American Society for Bariatric Surgery. Discuss their commitment to follow-up, because weight-loss surgery often involves lifetime follow-up. The doctor should be working with all of the aspects of management and assessment in a clinical, multidisciplinary setting. The affiliate hospital and their office facilities should be able to accommodate large patients and be able to support all of the components of their programs.
What is involved in preparing for surgery?
First, a rigorous medical and psychological screening process, performed by a team of doctors, will determine if you are a candidate. This process helps to identify the aspects of your health that will improve following surgery, as well as the aspects that may increase the risks associated with surgery. You will also want to come to a complete understanding of the significant, lifelong, lifestyle changes you must commit to, including diet, exercise, limiting alcoholic intake and smoking cessation, if necessary.
How long will it take for me to recover?
A common bariatric surgery FAQs that depends on the procedure. Patients who undergo laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding tend to stay in the hospital for a little more than one day, while the average hospital stays for patients who undergo a laparoscopic gastric bypass is closer to three days. Hospital stays for patients who undergo open gastric bypass surgery can exceed three days. Recovery times differ too. In one study, patients returned to normal activity in about one week after laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding and over 18 days after laparoscopic gastric bypass.
How will my life change after surgery?
Lifetime follow-up is recommended, with at least three follow-up visits during the first year. Adjustable gastric banding requires more frequent visits for band adjustments. You will need to adopt a healthy lifestyle, including a new nutrition plan and regular exercise, although exercise restrictions may be in place until you are healed. Because of the decrease in food intake, constipation may occur. A laxative may be recommended. You may want to consider or may require reconstructive operations after your weight stabilizes. Medications can be prescribed as needed. However, your doctor may tell you to avoid aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which can irritate the stomach.
When should I call my doctor or go to the ER?
When to call the doctor’s office:
  • Fever more than 100.4 F
  • Pain that is not relieved by pain medication
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Bleeding
  • Redness, pain or drainage from the incisions
  • Absence of bowel movements and gas 
  • Excessive diarrhea
  • If you have any question or medical problem we want to hear it first. Especially in the early days after the surgery
Signs and Symptoms for when to go to the ER:
  • Dehydration
  • Fever with abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting for more than 12 hours
  • Not tolerating liquids
  • Sudden onset of abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
Can I stretch out my pouch/sleeve?
This answer is for both sleeve and gastric bypass patients. After the surgery the size of the stomach is very small due to the surgery, swelling and the process of healing. With time the swelling decreases and the wall of the stomach become softer and can adapt better to larger amounts of food. If you slowly increase the amount of food you eat, you will increase the capacity of the stomach to accept more food without causing you trouble. But the stomach will not necessarily increase in size.
Can my pouch or sleeve burst?
No, the pouch will not explode or burst once you have healed. If you over fill your new stomach you will vomit and have pain. However, if you do not follow dietary directions after surgery and you overeat causing retching and vomiting there is a higher risk of a leak.
Is my remnant/bypassed stomach dead and will it resorb into my body?
After the pouch is created during the surgery the rest of the stomach will remain inside your body. It will continue to produce gastric juices. The juices will empty in the small bowel and later mix with the food coming from the pouch thru the roux limb. It will not die or shrivel up. It is healthy and can be used again to reverse a gastric bypass.
How long should I wait to get pregnant?
This is an important aspect of the bariatric surgery FAQs. It is wise to wait at least one year before you get pregnant. The great majority of weight loss happens during the first year. It is not good for a baby that is trying to develop to be inside a mother that is losing a lot of weight. It takes your body a year to adapt to your new anatomy. After a year, you should be familiar with how to take the multivitamins and we will monitor your blood work. Before you get pregnant is a good idea to let your gynecologist and your surgeon know so they can plan appropriately. Infact, a lot of morbidly obese women are not fertile and don't use any protection. After the surgery you most likely will be fertile and can become pregnant. We have seen this as soon as a month after the surgery.

Bariatric Surgery FAQs

Dietary and Nutrition

How will my diet change?
Immediately following weight-loss surgery (WLS), only sips of liquids are allowed. Over the next four weeks, the consumption amount is increased gradually with fluids including water, protein drinks, clear broth, sugar-free jello, and sugar-free ice pops. Soft foods are started about four weeks after the operation. After about 6-8 weeks, patients are allowed to eat regular, healthy foods. We want our patients to engage in normal social eating while enjoying foods that you like. We don't see this as a diet but more just common sense eating behavior. Once healed, care must be taken to let your stomach adapt to its new environment. Vitamin supplementation will be necessary, especially in patients who have undergone malabsorptive procedures (gastric bypass and biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch – BPD-DS). It is important to follow up and ask your bariatric surgery FAQs regarding your diet to ensure you are on track. 
What is dumping syndrome?
Dumping syndrome is the body’s intolerance to foods high in sugar and fat. These foods empty quickly from the stomach into the intestine causing nausea, clamminess, sweating, cramping, pounding heartbeat, light-headedness and diarrhea. Symptoms may last between 20 minutes and 4 hours. To avoid dumping syndrome, avoid high sugar foods, eat protein at every meal and avoid drinking with or for 30 minutes after a meal.
Will I have dumping forever?
Not everybody will develop dumping syndrome and it may not last forever. It can be more common shortly after surgery and with time your body may adapt to your new anatomy and you won’t experience it again. Most people only have dumping syndrome when they eat a food that triggers it.
Can I drink Special K Protein drinks?
No, the content of sugar is high and protein is too low and it is not a good choice. You should only be drinking the protein shakes approved by your dietitian. Please read our other Bariatric Surgery FAQs to ensure you are on track with your diet. 
Can I drink soda?
The most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t drink any liquids with calories. This will prevent you from losing weight and can make you regain the weight. In general, sodas are not recommended for general health reasons but there is not a specific indication why you can’t drink them as long as you drink the ones with no calories. As a note along with these bariatric surgery FAQs, sodas will increase the amount of gas and burping.
Can I drink caffeine?
Caffeine can irritate your stomach right after surgery and should be avoided during the first 4-6 weeks after surgery. After that time, a limited amount is fine.
Can I drink alcohol?
Having a drink socially is ok, however, it's important to understand a few things:
  • Alcohol will increase the risk of developing an ulcer.
  • The absorption of alcohol is faster and you will feel the effects with smaller amounts.
  • Surgery will not make you an alcoholic, but many bariatric patients have compulsive behaviors and are at high risk of transfer addictions.
  • Alcohol is also a liquid with calories (converted to sugar in the body) which should be avoided so as to not gain weight.
Can I eat sugar free ice cream or cookies?
We consider that a treat. As indicated in your manual, those are things that you can eat but we recommend you eat them in very small amounts and no more than once a week. Remember, sugar free cookies and ice cream is still cookies and ice cream and still have a lot of calories.
Do I have to take vitamins forever?
Yes, vitamins are essential for us to maintain good health. After any of the surgeries, the amount of food you eat is so small so it makes you prone to vitamin and protein deficiencies. Vitamin deficiencies can cause death if they are not corrected in time. A multivitamin is recommended even for people that have not had weight loss surgery.
Do I have to drink protein shakes forever?
Proteins are the base of our body, they help us heal, maintain muscle and health. It is important to have an intake of about 60-80 grams a day. If you can meet this goal with food then a protein shake is not necessary. If you cannot eat enough protein via food you will need to supplement with a protein shakes or bars until you can eat more protein. This will likely be necessary for serval months after surgery

Bariatric Surgery FAQs

Common Complaints

Will I be constipated?
Constipation is the difficult passage of hard, dry, or pasty stools. You may experience bloating, abdominal discomfort and straining. In the first few days it is common to experience this problem. Make sure you are drinking plenty of liquids (at least 64oz.).If the problem continues for more than 3 days, take an over the counter laxative. We prefer Milk of Magnesia or Miralax. Four weeks and later after surgery Add fiber to your diet. Add a little at a time so your body gets used to it. Drink plenty of water and other sugar-free liquids. Get plenty of exercise. Fiber Supplements: fiber supplements can help normalize bowel patterns. Examples include Metamucil, Benefiber, Citracel. Use as directed.
I feel dehydrated, why?
Dehydration will occur if you are not drinking enough fluids. Some symptoms of dehydration include dark and strong-smelling urine, dry mouth, nausea, fatigue, and headache. This is especially common in the first few weeks after surgery. It is very important to prevent this from happening by drinking fluids. As a minimum, you should drink 64oz. of liquids. You will not be able to drink a lot at one time so it is important that you sip on your drink all day long or an average of 4oz every hour.
Will I get diarrhea after surgery?
This is an important part of the bariatric surgery FAQs. Prolonged diarrhea, lasting more than 2 days, can lead to dehydration. Dehydration is dangerous and must be treated promptly to avoid serious problems. It is important to drink more fluids than usual, at least 80oz. a day. If the problem continues for more than 2 days and you also develop nausea, vomiting or fever please call or go to the nearest emergency room. Do not attempt to treat diarrhea with antidiarrheal medications.
I feel dizzy and light headed.
Many reasons can cause this problem including dehydration, medications, changes in blood pressure, low blood sugar, etc. Dizziness and light-headedness are usually temporary symptoms and will be resolved as the body adjusts to your new lifestyle. Check with your primary care doctor regarding your medications. Also if you have the option, check your blood sugar.
Why do I feel so fatigued/tired?
The typical causes of fatigue are inadequate sleep, poor nutrition, low fluid intake and lack of exercise. Other causes that should be considered include nutritional deficiencies, high carbohydrate meals, and psychological issues. 
Why is my saliva foamy?
This occurs with overstimulation of the pouch, usually due to overeating and/or over-drinking during meals. As a result, the body produces large quantities of saliva. Saliva fills the stomach pouch, moves into the throat and eventually moves up into the mouth. Drinking warm liquids 30 minutes before eating may help reduce this. Remaining upright after a meal may also help. Frothing will resolve itself after the pouch heals and the body adapts to a smaller stomach.
Why do I have gas/flatus?
Gas is a common problem. Typical causes of gas are dried beans/peas, lactose (the sugar found in milk), sugar alcohols, carbonated beverages, chewing gum and drinking through a straw. If gas makes you uncomfortable, try eliminating potential causes. You may also try over-the-counter products that help reduce gas (Gas-X) and eliminate odor (Devrom). Increasing the amount of physical activity will also help pass the gas.
Will I have hair loss?
Hair loss is not caused by the surgery itself. It is caused by the stress that rapid weight loss causes on your body. This usually happens between 3 to 6 months after the surgery but can happen before or after that. Most commonly this is noticed by you but not by the people around you. It will stop and your hair will grow back. Taking biotin may help reduce the amount of hair loss but nothing will completely stop it.
Is nausea and vomiting normal?
You can develop nausea and vomiting the day after the surgery and can be due to the anesthesia or swelling in your stomach this will improve with time. We won’t discharge you from the hospital until you are able to drink enough fluids to keep your body hydrated. In the first couple of weeks after the surgery, the most common reason to have nausea and vomiting is when the patient doesn’t follow the dietary instructions. If you experience vomiting, please stop drinking at least for 3 hours and then go back to a liquid diet. Start with very small zips and slowly increase the amount of liquid taken as tolerated. If you continue with this problem please call.
Why does my stomach make so much noise?
Stomach sounds are produced by the fluid and air that is in your intestines. When your intestine is moving it pushes air against the fluid and produces the sound. After surgery many patients develop an increase in the sound of their stomach because their intestines move faster and contain more air, especially after a gastric bypass.

Bariatric Surgery FAQs


Will exercise damage anything on the inside?
Exercise will not damage the surgery on any of the hookups that we made; there are no restrictions toward activity. Your level of comfort should guide the amount of exercise you do. If a specific activity or exercise causes pain you should avoid doing that and try it again at a later time. Walking is the best activity during the initial post operatory period. Walking will help avoid complications and speed up the recovery.
Will exercise make my skin tighten up?
The excess skin on a patient that has lost a large amount of weight will retract to some degree depending on your skin type and elasticity. Exercise will help you look better and feel better, but will not make your skin retract. 
Can I participate in contact sports?
Yes, there are no restrictions to participate in contact sports. You will need to wait for the healing process though.