Written By: Emma Squillace
After you’ve had weight loss surgery, there will be a period of recovery and healing. Most patients do very well after surgery, but it’s important to be educated on any red flags to look for. During your recovery – and for years after – it’s normal to wonder what signs of danger you should be looking out for. The vast majority of bariatric surgeries are performed safely and successfully. In fact, bariatric surgeries are minimally invasive operations that have about the same level of risk of laparoscopic gallbladder surgery. Even though these surgeries are very safe, it’s important to understand which potential side effects may indicate a bigger problem.
One of the most common side effects of bariatric surgery (and the gastric balloon) is nausea. You should expect to have up to a few weeks of an upset-stomach feeling, which is normal. After all, after you’ve had surgery on your stomach, your need a chance to heal. Many cases of nausea and vomiting are related to bariatric surgery patients trying to eat foods they are not ready for. You will be given clear dietary guidelines to follow after surgery. These guidelines include a liquid diet phase, where you will not eat any solid food. This phase is important in giving your digestive system a chance to heal slowly. You will work up to solid foods over the following months. While some nausea is normal, please call your doctor right away if you have strong stomach pains or ongoing vomiting after surgery. These could be signs of an ulcer or stricture.
Some weight loss surgery patients are frustrated to find out they have trouble swallowing their food. This is very often tied to one cause: not chewing their food enough. After you have bariatric surgery or a balloon, eating slowly and chewing your food well will become extremely important. With the alterations to your anatomy, you will not be able to swallow larger, unchewed bites of food that you could before surgery. We recommend you put your fork down between each bite, and spend about 20 seconds chewing a bite before you swallow it. While this may feel excessive at first, eating slowly will not only reduce problems with swallowing, but is mindful-eating behavior that has been shown to help with long term healthy eating choices. Difficult swallowing is most often linked to eating behaviors, but if you find you cannot swallow liquids or are having severe trouble eating food, get in touch with a doctor right away.
Short of breath and/or racing heart
Two symptoms that should be evaluated right away after bariatric surgery are if you feel short of breath, or you notice episodes of your heart racing. These symptoms after bariatric surgery are rare, but could be signs of a complication like a pulmonary embolism or sleeve leak. While a very small percent of patients face these complications, it is important to be evaluated right away. Most surgery complications are more easily treated and corrected when they are caught quickly.
Dizziness soon after surgery could be a side effect of recovery, but if you find you are very dizzy – or are having dizziness months after surgery – get in touch with your doctor. Longer term dizziness could be a sign of nutritional deficiencies. Since you’ll be eating significantly less food after weight loss surgery, it can be difficult to ensure you have adequate intake of the vitamins, minerals, and nutritional balance you need. For most surgery patients we recommend ongoing blood tests to check your levels are within a healthy range. You’ll also be given instructions for supplements to take, and these vary by which surgery you’ve had.
Weight loss surgery is often a live-saving, life-extending procedure. Many patients not only lose a significant amount of weight, but also see improvement in weight related conditions like arthritis, sleep apnea, diabetes, and high blood pressure. While weight loss surgery is safe and effective overall, it is important to understand the side effects and potential complications you may face. With education, in the rare event of a complication, you’ll know when to call a doctor. At West Medical we encourage our bariatric patients to call us anytime they have questions about a potential side effect. We are here to support you not only during surgery, but for months and years after it. If you have any questions about weight loss surgery, please call us at (855) 690-0565.