In this article we discuss a few of the more colorful concerns that cross the minds of many weight loss surgery patients. Constipation and general poop changes happen and yes, we will discuss them. Assuming you had gastric bypass or gastric sleeve surgery, you’re going to have staples inside you. Should this be a concern? How much will it hurt? These are some of the most frequently asked questions prior to the major weight loss procedures. We will address them here!
All About Pain After Surgery
Pain is a subjective matter. Whether you have gastric bypass, gastric sleeve or Lap Band surgery, there will be pain and it can be significant.
It would be nice if we could say gastric bypass surgery produces an 8 out of 10 on the pain scale. Gastric sleeve surgery produces 7 out of 10 on the pain scale and Lap Band surgery is a 5 out of 10. However, we can’t do that because there are just too many differences in the way people feel and rate pain.
Most weight loss surgeries are performed laparoscopically, so this article pertains specifically to laparoscopic surgery. With any open procedure there is considerably more pain and a longer hospital stay.
Anecdotally, laparoscopic gastric bypass and gastric sleeve surgery (sleeve gastrectomy) produce a similar amount of pain. Typically, more pain is experienced at the site of the incision that the surgeon removed the stomach from. This is usually the upper left quadrant (under your rib cage on your left side).
This makes sense because in order to remove the stomach during a gastric sleeve procedure the incision needs to be widened and often stretched. Muscle fibers tear and are often bruised as a result.
During gastric bypass surgery, the anastomosis (the connection of the intestines to the new stomach) is often made with a circular stapler. These staplers are large and typically require enlarging the incision in the upper left quadrant. The insertion and removal of this stapler can stretch the muscle and sometimes cause bruising.
Because of the larger incisions with gastric bypass and with gastric sleeve surgery it is possible that these two procedures lead to slightly more pain compared to Lap Band surgery.
Overall, pain is not a huge concern after surgery. It can be managed well with pain medication. Most patients are off of all pain medications in a few days and back to work within a week. With that said, bending over, getting up from a seated position and twisting your torso can cause sharp pain for a few weeks after surgery. This goes away with time.
The key point to remember about pain is that there are very few, if any, patients that would not have the surgery again if they could go back in time. So while you can expect some pain, rest assured, it will be worth it in the long run. Our article about gastric sleeve recovery goes into detail on pain and recovery.
Pooping After Weight Loss Surgery
Gastric sleeve surgery and particularly gastric bypass surgery will cause changes to your bowel movements. Be prepared for different smells, more gas, and occasional cramping. Lap Band surgery does not have the same changes to bowel movements since there is no anatomical changes (physical changes to your body) that happen with Lap Band surgery. A band around the stomach reduces the size of the stomach but doesn’t re-route intestines or remove a large portion of the stomach.
Immediately after your surgery you will likely be on a liquid diet for a week. After that you will move on to pureed food. The reason for doing this is to reduce the stress on your new stomach while it heals from surgery.
Another benefit from the liquid and pureed food diet is that it makes it easier to poop. Pain medication can lead to constipation but if you follow the diet guidelines this is not often a concern. However, after you resume regular food you may experience constipation.
The pain medication combined with a metabolism that has slowed down due to a reduction in calories and recent surgery can lead to some difficult-to-pass bowel movements. Talk to your surgeon if this becomes an issue. Fluids and fiber can help alleviate some of this constipation.
The other big surprise is often the smell and consistency of your bowel movements after weight loss surgery. This is especially true after gastric bypass surgery. The distance from your stomach to anus has been artificially decreased from surgery and this means less time for your body to process the food. This also means your bowel movements may be more watery and have a different, typically more unpleasant smell. With poop, prepare for the worst.
Gastric sleeve surgery produces less change in your bowel movements and Lap Band surgery has minimal change as well. The best advice is to stick to the recommended diet and stay hydrated.
What happens to your staples?
This is a pretty easy question to address but it gets asked often. Your staples are made of titanium and they are radiolucent. This means that they are not magnetic and will not set off x-ray machines when you go through the airport. Basically, the staples will stay in you forever and not cause any issues. Even if they migrate (move from their original position) they won’t cause any issues.