It’s normal to have questions if you’re considering weight-loss surgery. Among the most common are whether it’s safe, whether it’s covered by insurance, and what recovery windows look like. Here’s what to understand about weight-loss surgery recovery times.
Shorter than You’d Think
Recovery times after weight loss surgery have become shorter and shorter as the procedures have become simpler, safer, and less invasive. The three key factors that play a role in predicting the necessary recovery time are the choice of procedure, the person undergoing the procedure, and the job or activities which the person is hoping to resume.
Choice of Procedure
Choice of procedure can play a big role in the recovery time. The primary difference is between traditional open surgery with a large incision and scar versus modern minimally invasive surgery with small Band-Aids. The former means several days in the hospital and often six weeks or more recovery time. Most people today undergo a minimally invasive procedure with laparoscopy or robotic technique that involves four or five small Band-Aids and an overnight stay. Laparoscopy, or minimally invasive technique surgery, has made an enormous difference in minimizing the pain and recovery time from surgery.
The migration toward the sleeve procedure over the last 15 years has also meant most people are choosing and undergoing a simpler, safer, and less invasive procedure overall. Most people stay in the hospital overnight and the primary side effect is short term nausea due to the manipulation of the stomach together with anesthesia and medications. This usually resolves within a day or two. Most people are surprised to find that they feel like their old selves within four or five days, and many people resume work within a week. Gastric bypass and duodenal switch can also be done with minimally invasive surgery and small Band-Aids, but the procedure inside is somewhat more complicated, and for some individuals there may be a few extra days for recovery.
The Person Undergoing the Surgery
Even more important than procedure type is the person undergoing the procedure. Amazingly, two people can undergo the same procedure with the same incisions and seemingly the same amount of tissue trauma, bleeding, time in the operating room, etc., and yet have vastly different recovery times. It’s often hard to predict how slowly or quickly a person will recover from surgery based upon their age or guesswork about how a person handles discomfort. But some individuals simply have a much easier time, experiencing less pain, nausea, loss of energy, and other side effects than the rest of us after undergoing surgery. A few thoughts can help predict recovery time, such as whether a person recovered slowly or quickly after past surgical interventions. Additionally, people who are chronically taking opioid painkiller medications universally experience more post-operative pain and usually a longer and slower recovery than people whose body is not already tolerant to opioids.
Lastly, recovery time is defined by how we define “recovery.” For many people, it’s the time necessary to resume work and routine activities. One person may need a week to go sit at a desk job and handle light responsibilities, while another person may need six weeks to resume twelve-hour shifts unloading heavy freight. Most people fall somewhere in between, with two weeks as a good ballpark for resumption of driving, errands, office work, and non-strenuous activities. That doesn’t mean you won’t feel extra tired at the end of the workday, or sore with some movements, but it does mean you can function safely.
While it’s difficult to generalize, ask your surgeon for his or her best prediction based on the type of surgery and what most patients have reported. Remember that it is only a guideline, and that every person is different. For laparoscopy surgery nowadays, recovery times have become short, on the order of two weeks for many procedures. For open surgery, the time is often tripled.
For open surgery, or open revisional surgery with a large scar, these recovery times are more than doubled.
If you’re considering weight-loss surgery, contact the Sasse Surgical team in northern Nevada.