After Gastric band surgery...what's next?

After the surgery you will be taken to a high dependency unit where specially trained staff will monitor your recovery from the anaesthesia as well your vital signs. Depending on your progress you will then be transferred back to your room or ward.

Once you arrive back in your room (or on the ward) you will notice that you have some pain in your abdomen and possibly in your left shoulder. The reason for that can be trapped gas from the procedure or pain transmitted from the diaphragm (muscular partition which separates the chest from the abdomen).

A nurse will check your heart rate, blood pressure and the surgical wound. You will be placed on an intravenous (IV) drip which is attached to your arm. This is to prevent dehydration. You may also find that you have other tubes attached to your body: these may include a catheter which is a device that allows urine to be drained out of the bladder into a small bag and drainage tubes from the surgical wounds.

In order to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis you will be given another injection of Heparin. You may find that you have special pads on your legs which are connected to a compression pump. This pump inflates these pads which stimulates your circulation and prevents the formation of blood clots.

You will be encouraged to get up and move around as soon as you are able. Getting mobile as soon as possible will reduce the risk of blood clots and chest infections.

For the first 24 hours after surgery you will be allowed to have water although small sips only. This is because your stomach is still swollen and in the process of healing. Plus, your now reduced stomach has to gradually become accustomed to a new food and liquid regime. So, you will start with water, then liquids such as thin soups and juices before moving onto solids. This gradual process will enable you to become used to your band so work with it rather than against it.

What you must remember is that when you can have liquids and finally solids, that you have small portions only. You will be given advice about this and other matters related to your diet before you leave hospital.

Once your surgeon and support team are satisfied with your recovery you will then be discharged from hospital. Arrange for someone to pick you up and drive you home and, if need be, to stay with you whilst your recover from the after effects of the surgery. This includes any feelings of grogginess or disorientation after anaesthesia and post-operative pain.

At home, make sure that you take plenty of rest. Do not overtire yourself or perform unnecessary tasks. Have someone who can do the normal household tasks for you. Before you left hospital you will have been given an ample supply of painkillers and a date will have been made for your first aftercare session.

It is normal to feel tired, emotional or generally ‘out of sorts’ after surgery. Your stomach will feel bruised and tender and there will be some pain but this will ease over time. Take painkillers to control this pain but if it is severe and/or accompanied by other symptoms then contact the hospital immediately. You will have been given an emergency contact number if complications do arise. They are uncommon but no procedure is 100% risk free and if something does crop up then you will need urgent medical attention.

Stitches: if you had dissolvable stitches then these will disappear on their accord, but if you have had any other type then you will need to return to the hospital a week after the surgery for their removal. This also gives the team chance to see how you are doing and if there are any issues that need dealing with.

Give yourself plenty of time to recover before resuming your normal everyday activities. Try to avoid any unnecessary bending or stretching as this can put a strain on the stitches and is uncomfortable as well.

In terms of your diet, you will be on liquids for the first two after your surgery. This may appear very restrictive but it is vital that you let the stomach heal and adjust to the band. It will feel very strange to start with and initially, there may be some nausea or vomiting whilst you get used to your new food intake.

Remember that you have to have small portions of everything; that you must cut your food up into small bite-sized pieces and most of all, chew your food SLOWLY.

The band will not be filled with solution until two months after surgery. In that time you will be getting used to eating solid food again albeit in reduced amounts. After 8 weeks your stomach will have healed and so you will be ready for your first fill.

This painless procedure is carried out under X-ray at your hospital or clinic. The reason for this is that your surgeon can check the position of the access port before administering the saline solution. He/she will then inject this solution into the access port where it will pass down the tubing into the band. It can take a bit of fine tuning in order to get the correct amount of band restriction so please be patient.

As soon as this is done you will be asked to drink a glass of water. This is to check that your band can handle fluids and is working correctly. You will be advised to carry on with fluids only for the next 3 days but after that you can try semi-solid food, such as thick soups before going back onto solids.

This will feel strange to start with and the hardest part is remembering to eat small amounts of healthy food, slowly and with pauses in between mouthfuls. As your stomach is much smaller than normal you will only be able to eat little and often. Do not drink any fluids at the same time as this will cause bloating and feelings of fullness before you have finished eating. You will soon learn how much you can eat and at what pace. If you forget then your band will remind you: feelings of nausea and even vomiting can occur so try to ensure that you follow a disciplined routine with this.

Patients usually undergo five or six of these adjustments/fills in the first year after surgery.

Your dietician will have given you advice and information on what types of foods to eat. The emphasis will be on a well balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, protein and carbohydrate. Try to resist ‘cheating’ by eating something which is high in sugar or fat as this is not only risky in terms of saturated fat but can cause ‘dumping syndrome’. This is likely to happen if you consume something very sweet or sugary so try to avoid this if you can.

If your dietician feels that you are not getting enough essential nutrients from your diet then he/she will recommend that you take a daily supplement.

It will be about 3 weeks or so before you are fully recovered. Each patient is different when it comes to post-surgery recovery, with some people taking longer than others and vice versa.

As with gastric bypass this surgery is not a ‘quick fix’ solution to the problem of obesity: it is designed to form part of a long term plan for addressing chronic weight gain which means a long term commitment from you.

Gastric Band Surgery Guide sections

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