A sleeve gastrectomy is an operation where the surgeon staples off about 80-90% of the stomach, which is removed from the body. This gives a restrictive feeling where you can’t eat or drink as much as before the procedure. It also gives a metabolic “kick” by decreasing the amount of the hunger hormone produced (ghrelin).
What is the recovery time?
Most people spend two nights in hospital after a sleeve. If you’re a country patient, we ask that you spend a week in Perth. Most will take two weeks off work, unless you’re in a highly physical job where you might benefit from four weeks off. The first week (or two) all you’ll feel like doing is lying on a couch and we ask that you sip, sip constantly – water, tea, broth or other fluids as prescribed by the dietitian. Definitely no beer, wine or soft drinks!
The usual diet after a sleeve is
- In hospital – sips on night of surgery, clear fluids day 1 postop, nourishing fluids from day 2 postop
- <2 weeks – Nourishing fluids
- 2-4 weeks – Puree diet
- 4-6 weeks – Soft diet
How much weight will I lose?
Most people will lose 60-70% of their excess weight in the first 12-18 months. For a more exact “target”, have a chat to your surgeon. We use a bioimpedance scanner in rooms so we know a bit more about how much of the number on the scales is muscle, fat or water – remember, muscle weighs more than fat!
Can you gain the weight back?
Yes. For the person who doesn’t have a team looking after them, it is much harder to stick to “the rules”. The rules are there to make sure your sleeved stomach doesn’t stretch, which it will with the wrong food choices. We have the most comprehensive team of bariatric physicians, dietitians and psychologists to make sure your weight loss lasts as long as possible, also to make sure you’re not losing protein, vitamins or getting off-track. It is always easier to make sure the sleeve functions well the first time than trying to “fix” things later.
How painful is gastric sleeve surgery?
Pain isn’t a big factor after sleeve surgery. Nausea is a huge issue – so we put you on at least two regular medications throughout your hospital stay, plus another two or three as needed (we really don’t want you to vomit after a sleeve). Bloating and “gas pain” is an issue though, so the sooner you can get walking after a sleeve the better. Most people that aren’t in ICU the first night are walking within hours of surgery. The more laps of the ward you can do, the better!
What are the cons of gastric sleeve surgery?
- It is not a “quick fix”
- Many people think the hard part is the surgery. Surgery is certainly major, the recovery requires effort but most will get through the first few weeks without too many hurdles. During the first 12-18 months most people are amazed at the difference it creates in their positive outlook, fitting into regular shop clothes and not needing seat-belt extenders on airplanes. But after this time, when the hunger starts to return, this is when all the education and support of your team will kick in. You still have to stay off fizzy drinks, minimise alcohol and avoid large meals.
- It is not for everyone
- Not everyone is a candidate for surgery. Many things can stop you from having a safe outcome from surgery (including lots of previous operations on your stomach). Your age as well as other medical problems might make surgery less of an option. Speak to your surgeon about your personalised risk profile.
- Everyone responds differently
- Its human nature to compare yourself to other people’s weight loss journeys. Those that don’t get enough protein and water will lose more “weight” as in the number on the scales – but this is unhealthy and unsustainable. Stick to the guidelines from your surgeon and dietitian and be happy with feeling healthier; a much better guide is whether you can walk further and faster, and how well your clothes start to fit after a few weeks.