Post-operative recovery is a vital component in your gastric sleeve surgery plan. You should schedule your surgery at a time when you are able to commit yourself to go through the recovery phase in accordance with your bariatric surgeon’s instructions. The initial gastric sleeve recovery time is only about one week, but complete healing will take up to three months.

Preparing for recovery

Advance preparation for your post-surgical healing phase will allow you to recover faster with minimal risk of complications. During your initial consultations, your surgeon will explain to you the do’s and don’ts you should follow for a few days after your gastric sleeve surgery. Make notes about your post-op care instructions, and be diligent about things such avoiding smoking, not using blood thinning medications, and applying cold compresses initially to reduce soreness in the incision sites.

To ensure a more comfortable gastric sleeve recovery time, you may keep the following items at home in advance:

  • Thermometer
  • Gauze pads and cotton
  • Bandage tape
  • Ice packs
  • Heating pad
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Mild over the counter pain meds
  • Extra pillows for support

Initial recovery at the hospital

Many patients may be able to return the same day after their gastric sleeve surgery, but in some cases, an overnight stay may be required. You may experience some after-effects of general anesthesia, surgical pain, fatigue, mild nausea, light-headedness, and muscle weakness in the first 24 to 48 hours.

The nurses at the hospital will monitor your vital signs and will help you to perform simple leg movements and deep breathing exercises, apart from administering you prescription pain medications and antibiotics as required. If your bariatric surgeon finds that you are recovering as expected, they may relieve you from the hospital within a day.

One week post-op downtime

The initial gastric sleeve recovery time is most crucial for the safety and success of your procedure. You should rest at your home or hotel room in the first week as much as possible to allow the internal and external incisions to heal well. Your surgeon may encourage you to take short walks within the home and perform light activities from the second day.

Staying active will improve your blood flow and promote faster healing. Apply ice packs to your incision sites in the first 48 hours to reduce discomfort and mitigate the swelling. In the first week, your post-op gastric sleeve diet may comprise only liquids. Make sure to follow your surgeon’s guidelines regarding recovery and diet in the first week.

Full recovery within three months

The maximum gastric sleeve recovery time is usually about three months. While you can return to your normal routine or go back to work after the first week, you should continue to protect the incision areas until the healing is complete. Avoid doing strenuous physical work for at least two weeks, and perform only mild fitness exercises with the approval of your surgeon or physical therapist.

One month after your gastric sleeve surgery, you may be able to go to the gym and progressively increase your activities and exercises. Your post-op diet will gradually include more solids, and by the third month you may be ready to resume your normal diet as prescribed by your nutritionist. Make sure to maintain your follow-up appointments with the surgeon as scheduled during this post-surgical recovery phase.

Tips for a safe and sustainable recovery

You can reduce your overall gastric sleeve recovery time and ensure a healthy and sustainable recovery by following these simple tips:

Wound care: Change the dressings in the first few days as advised by your surgeon. Protect the incision sites from contamination to minimize your risk of infection. Sleep on your side or back in the first week to enable proper healing.

Travel: If you have had your gastric sleeve surgery at an offshore location, it is best to stay at the hotel for at least one week post-operatively. Thereafter, you can safely travel by air or by road to return home. Avoid driving until the time you are taking pain medications.

Diet: Your post-op diet is the most important part of your recovery process. A diet rich in lean proteins will expedite healing. Strictly follow your nutritionist’s recommended diet plan for best weight loss results. Stay hydrated to minimize tiredness and nausea as you heal.

No smoking: Nicotine in cigarettes can interfere with the oxygen flow in your blood, and delay or disrupt your recovery process. Avoid smoking for several weeks, and follow your surgeon’s advice regarding smoking, alcohol, or any other lifestyle habits.

The bottom line

As long as you stay focused and committed to following your post-op care instructions, your gastric sleeve recovery will be relatively short, safe, and comfortable. You can be sure that it will have a lasting impact on the long-term outcomes of your gastric sleeve surgery.