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Bariatric Surgery FAQs

Weight loss surgery is a big step – and a major commitment. So if you’re considering this treatment, you likely have a lot of questions. The experienced bariatrics team at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health is here to provide the answers and guidance you need to start your journey.

  • Weight loss surgery, also called bariatric surgery, works by:

    • Reducing the amount of food your body can hold (restrictive)
    • Changing the way your body digests food (malabsorptive) 

    Restrictive bariatric surgery reduces the size of your stomach so you can’t eat as much. This type of procedure also decreases your appetite. Gastric sleeve surgery is an example of a restrictive bariatric surgery. 

    Malabsorptive bariatric surgery changes the way food moves through your digestive tract. Your intestines absorb fewer calories and nutrients from the food you do eat, and you feel less hungry. Gastric bypass surgery is an example of a malabsorptive procedure.

  • Gastric sleeve surgery takes 1 to 2 hours. But you’ll need to arrive at the hospital several hours before your procedure. You should also plan to stay in the hospital for 1 to 2 days. It takes people anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks to recover from gastric sleeve surgery.

  • Gastric bypass surgery takes 2 to 3 hours. But you’ll need to arrive at the hospital several hours before your procedure. You should also plan to stay in the hospital for 1 to 2 days. It takes people anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks to recover from gastric bypass surgery.

  • Loose skin is a common concern after weight loss surgery. When you have obesity, your skin stretches to accommodate the excess body fat. But after major weight loss, the skin might not contract and tighten. So, many people end up with sagging skin, especially on their arms, belly and thighs. 

    Loose skin might make you feel self-conscious. It can also diminish some of the joy and satisfaction you feel after such a major transformation. In addition, loose skin can be uncomfortable and lead to: 

    • Foul odor
    • Infections
    • Rashes
    • Reduced mobility
    • Sores

    If you’re concerned about hanging skin, you may want to consider skin removal surgery or a body contouring procedure such as a tummy tuck or arm lift. A surgeon removes and tightens loose areas of skin to give your body the shape you desire. Your bariatrics team can refer you to the plastic and reconstructive surgery experts at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health.

  • Dumping syndrome occurs when certain foods move too quickly through your small intestine. So when it arrives in your small intestine, it’s not digested enough. Dumping syndrome is a common side effect of gastric bypass surgery, where food takes a much shorter route through your small intestine. It can also happen after other types of weight loss surgery. 

    Dumping syndrome can cause:

    • Bloating, cramps and stomach pain
    • Diarrhea 
    • Dizziness or fainting
    • Fast heart rate
    • Fatigue
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Sweating

    Some ways you can reduce the effects of dumping syndrome after weight loss surgery include: 

    • Avoid milk products and lactose.
    • Stay away from sugary drinks and alcohol.
    • Don’t eat greasy, high-fat or fried foods.
    • Eat smaller meals.
    • Track which foods cause the worst symptoms. 
    • Try not to drink fluids when you eat.
  • We suggest avoiding alcohol for at least six months after surgery or eliminating it entirely. Alcohol is metabolized differently after surgery, which means you can become heavily intoxicated quickly. Blood alcohol levels peak higher and faster after drinking and take longer to return to normal after your surgery. 

    Alcohol is also high in calories and can cause: 

    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Stomach irritation
    • Stomach ulcers
  • One week after your surgery, you can start light, low-impact exercise such as walking on a treadmill or elliptical. For the first month after surgery, you shouldn’t lift more than 10 pounds at a time. After one month, you can begin swimming, water aerobics, mild strength training and other activities (with your doctor’s approval).

  • Significant hormonal changes occur after bariatric surgery. People with fertility issues prior to surgery may be more likely to get pregnant after surgery. We strongly suggest you take precautions to prevent pregnancy for 12 to 24 months after surgery. Rapid weight loss can affect the health of a developing fetus. Pregnancy also can prevent weight loss. Work with your primary care provider or obstetrician on a reliable method of birth control to prevent pregnancy.

Am I a candidate for weight loss surgery?

We invite you to take the next step to find out more about your weight loss options.