Gastric sleeve surgery—also known as a vertical sleeve gastrectomy—is one of the newest forms of surgical weight loss. Although it is less commonly performed than other weight loss surgery procedures, it is gaining popularity because it is less invasive than a full gastric bypass and does not involve inserting a foreign body or require repeated follow-up appointments, like the adjustable gastric band.
Candidates for the gastric sleeve procedure generally have a body mass index (BMI) over 40, although patients with BMIs of 35 to 39 are eligible if they have obesity-related illnesses. The surgery reduces the size of the patient’s stomach by about 75%, and patients who undergo this procedure can typically expect to lose between 50% and 60% of their excess body weight within a year of having the surgery.
How quickly you recover from surgery and how much weight you lose will depend almost entirely on whether you follow your surgeon’s instructions and adjust your eating habits and physical activity, as prescribed. Here is an overview of what to expect in the weeks immediately after gastric sleeve surgery, as well as over the long term.
Post-Surgery: The First Two Weeks
The surgery itself generally takes one to two hours, after which you will likely stay in the hospital for a couple of days. Your abdomen may be swollen or sore, but your surgeon will prescribe pain medications, if appropriate, to help you be more comfortable. You need to allow your body time to adjust to the surgery, which means that you will follow a liquid-only diet during this time. You will need to follow the instructions provided by your surgical staff precisely and may want to have a family member or friend take notes. You don’t want to do anything that could cause complications after surgery.
Post Surgery: The First Two Months
Once you have been released from the hospital and have followed a liquid diet for a couple of weeks, you may slowly transition to solid foods. This means that for two weeks after a liquid diet, you may have pureed foods. After those two weeks, you may proceed to solid foods if your doctor has approved you to do so. When you transition to solid foods, you will need to change the way you approach eating to follow these guidelines:
- Eating slowly
- Eating only small quantities
- Chewing food thoroughly until it is completely mashed
- Drinking beverages 30 minutes before a meal, not during the meal
You will need to follow these instructions for the rest of your life, so it’s essential to think of the entire vertical sleeve gastrectomy as a lifestyle change, rather than a temporary solution to obesity.
Post Surgery: The Long Term
Because vertical sleeve gastrectomy is such a new procedure, limited data exists to show what patients may experience in the way of health improvement or weight loss after five years. However, you should expect to make the same lifestyle changes that anyone who has bariatric surgery must follow in order to lose weight and keep it off:
- Get regular physical exercise (at least 30 minutes five times a week)
- Find a support group and attend frequent meetings
- Learn to modify your behavior regarding food
- Follow dietary guidelines set forth by your surgeon
Post-Surgery Dietary Benefits
The dietary changes after gastric sleeve surgery are similar to those prescribed after gastric bypass surgery. However, vertical sleeve gastrectomy patients generally do not experience “dumping syndrome”, because the digestive system is not re-routed, as is the case with the gastric bypass. (Dumping syndrome can occur when food passes through the large intestine too rapidly and enters the small intestine undigested. This can lead to vomiting, nausea, dizziness, bloating, and cramping. It is often triggered by foods and beverages high in sugar or fat.)
Similarly, because the small intestine is not bypassed during the vertical sleeve gastrectomy, there is also no risk of malabsorption issues. Your body will still be able to absorb all the nutrients it requires from your food.
If you are considering gastric sleeve surgery, we encourage you to call Dr. Provost’s office to learn more about the risks and benefits of this procedure. Call 888-715-4330 to schedule a consultation.