Returning Home after Bariatric Surgery
You will be discharged from the hospital and able to return home as soon as your surgeon has deemed it safe. The transition to care at home may be difficult for some. After all, in the hospital, the nursing staff was handling most of your care. Importantly, you should have someone ready and willing to drive you home (you may not be able to drive due to medications) from the hospital and spend a few days helping you out at home. Once back, you and your “assistant” will be responsible for several tasks including wound care, bathing, preparing dietary items and proper movements.
Good post-op care helps you heal quickly and safely. It is important to:
- Follow all instructions and guidelines you are given
- Know how to care for your incision and control your pain
- Know the signs of problems after surgery
- Know when to call your surgeon
Do not deviate from your post-op diet. The clear liquid diet is not only a weight loss tool. Rather, it is important to keep you hydrated and minimize stress on your stomach as it heals. Deviating from the prescribed diet can cause complications. Do not smoke, drink or eat any solid foods during this time.
It’s normal to lose fluids during surgery. Drinking liquids helps you feel better and balances your body’s chemicals. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day (6-8 ounces each), unless you’ve been told not to. Watch for dark yellow urine (a sign that you may not be getting enough fluids).
Caring for Your Incision
Proper wound care is important in keeping infection at bay. Any cut on your body, no matter how small, can become infected. Remember to wash your hands before touching the wound or handling dressings. You may be sent home with a dressing over your incision to keep it clean and dry.
Either steri-strips or skin adhesive is used to dress your incisions. Dressings are usually left untouched for 24-48 hours. You will then be able to shower with the steri-strips in place. They will stay on until you are seen by your doctor.
A slightly red, swollen incision is ok – so is some bleeding or discharge. But, if redness, bleeding, pain or swelling increases, if the incision smells bad or is warm to the touch, you may have an infection. If you notice any of these signs, gently press a clean dressing or cloth against your incision and call your surgeon. Fever can also signal infection, so take your temperature twice a day. Call your surgeon if your temperature stays at about 100° F, if you have numbness of your fingers or if your toes look bluish.
You may have pain after surgery. Pain medication will help you feel better and you’ll heal more quickly. Ask your doctor about other ways to control pain, such as heat, ice and relaxation techniques. Follow any instructions your doctor or nurse has given to you.
Pain medication helps you move around more comfortably. Take it only as directed, before pain becomes severe. Don’t take it more or less often than you have been instructed. Taking it before bedtime may help you sleep. Always take this, or any medication, as directed.
- Don’t drink alcohol while on pain medication.
- Don’t drive or use heavy machinery or power tools.
- Ask your doctor before taking other medications, herbs or vitamins.
Pain medication may cause constipation. Avoid laxatives unless they have been prescribed for you. Instead, increase your fluids and fiber. Tell your surgeon if you have stomach pain, nausea, skin rash, itching or hives.
After surgery, you’ll likely feel tired. So get plenty of rest to give your body time to heal. Slowly increase your level of activity and exercise. Follow your surgeon’s advice about deep breathing, coughing, driving and other activities.
Continue exercising by walking around the house and even going outside. Avoid lifting anything heavier than 15lbs, but ideally lift nothing more than what is absolutely necessary. When climbing stairs, be very careful not to fall, especially if you are taking narcotic medications for pain.
Breathing and coughing
To help clear your lungs and prevent pneumonia, you may be shown how to deep-breathe and cough.
- Take your spirometer home with you from the hospital, use it as you have been shown
- After surgery, breathe deeply and cough regularly until the pain from your incision is gone
- Support your incision with a pillow when you cough
- To avoid lung problems, don’t smoke
Going home after surgery can be overwhelming. That’s why we recommend having a close friend or family member with you for the first few days. Please be sure you have someone to count on – it will make your immediate post-surgical recovery that much easier.
Of course if you ever believe you are having an emergency, dial 911 immediately.