Before leaving hospital make sure you’re clear about:
- how to care for your incisions
- when and where any stiches or staples should be removed
- your level of activity, particularly heavy lifting
- driving (don’t forget to also check with your car insurance company in case they have any restrictions following an operation)
- symptoms for which you should seek further medical attention
- any changes to your regular medication
- changes to your diet
- how soon after surgery you can have sex
- what kind of exercise you can do.
Caring for your incisions
You can start showering your wound (along with your entire body) 3 days after you surgery, unless your surgeon advises against it. Don’t soak in a bathtub until any stitches, wound closure strips or staples are removed.
If your surgeon has asked you to change the wound dressing at home, follow their instructions and keep in mind that a small amount of drainage from the incisions is normal.
Your scars will heal in about 4 to 6 weeks and will become softer and continue to fade over the next year.
Pain is different for each person. Your surgeon or anaesthetist will have prescribed pain relief. If you have a soreness from the tube that was down your throat you can use lozenges.
After a keyhole procedure, pain or discomfort is often felt in your shoulder. This is because during the procedure, gas is inserted into your abdomen. Moving and walking help to decrease the gas and the shoulder pain.
Restrictions on activity
While light activity, like walking, is recommended you’ll probably be advised to avoid strenuous activity or heavy lifting for 4 to 6 weeks after surgery.
Apart from weight loss, you may notice some symptoms in the first 3 to 6 months as your body reacts to the change.
These can include:
- body aches
- tiredness, as though you have the flu
- feeling cold
- dry skin
- thinning hair or hair loss
- changes in your mood.
If you have type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or obstructive sleep apnoea, you may find they begin to improve soon after your surgery. Check with your surgeon before taking your normal medications.
Recovering from surgery and losing weight can be stressful and emotional, and it’s important to have the support of family and friends. Working with a social worker, therapist or support group can help you through the ups and downs.
It usually takes between 1 and 2 years to get the full benefits of your surgery. After reaching your goal weight, you may consider having plastic surgery called body contouring, to remove excess skin from your body. You may be able to get a Medicare or health fund rebate for this but there are strict
criteria for eligibility.
If this is something you want to explore, ask your doctor for a referral to a plastic surgeon who can advise you and perform the surgery.
You'll need to have frequent check-ups for several months, and regular checks ongoing. If you’ve had adjustable gastric banding, your band may need adjusting. You may also need blood and urine tests, and other examinations.
Watching out for problems
- Delayed complications from weight loss surgery are unlikely but call your surgeon if you experience:
- increased pain or drainage from your wound
- redness or changes in the skin around your wound
- chest pain or shortness of breath
- nausea or vomiting that lasts for over 12 hours
- pain, redness or swelling in your legs
- dark urine or no urine
- pain that’s not relieved by pain medication.