What is the gastric sleeve recovery time typically like?

Would I need to take more than 2 weeks off from work for gastric sleeve recovery time? That’s about as much time as I have left, and I don’t know if I would be approved to take more time than that consecutively. I know gastric sleeve surgery is a major operation and not something to take lightly, but I feel that I need it to live a healthy life.


M, 40, California

Tags:man age 35-44 recovery

Returning to work after a gastric sleeve procedure typically takes two to three weeks. In my experience, the earliest anyone has ever been able to return to work post-surgery is around the one week mark -- but that depends on how physically demanding the work is.

Specific questions about your postoperative recovery schedule should be answered by a bariatric surgeon who has performed a physical examination and has direct knowledge of your case.

Generally speaking, a one or two night hospital stay is required post-op. After that you'll return home for plenty of rest.

For the first week after your hospital stay you'll have to drink clear liquids only. By the second week you're still going to be on a liquid diet and getting your protein from protein shakes. (You won't be eating full solid foods again until the fifth week following surgery).

Sticking to your special gastric sleeve diet, avoiding dehydration and walking frequently will help accelerate your recovery. I advise walking for at least 30 minutes per day as soon as you return home from the hospital.

As to whether you'll be ready to return to work after just two weeks, I can't say with any certainty. There are simply too many factors that could potentially extend the recovery period.

These factors include your age, your weight, your level of health and the experience of your bariatric surgeon.

Gastric sleeve surgery (sleeve gastrectomy surgery) is a very effective bariatric surgery procedure for achieving weight loss in extremely overweight patients. The procedure is relatively simple to perform but is invasive and comes with a considerable recovery period.

The answer to your question varies on a case-by-case basis and on a number of factors that are patient specific. The gastric sleeve recovery period can last as little as four weeks for some patients. For others it's a longer process that can last for up to six weeks or more. I can't give you any specific medical advice without a personal consultation, but generally speaking you will need to take somewhere between one and three weeks off work.

If the type of work you do is physically strenuous or you experience complications as a result of the procedure, you may need even more time.

The procedure is less risky than a duodenal switch, less invasive than gastric bypass surgery, and easier to maintain than a lap band procedure, but gastric sleeve surgery does have a few potential complications which could increase recovery time. For example, a staple line leak could happen at any point during the first month after surgery, and as such would extend the recovery period considerably.

Also keep in mind that you will need to adhere to a very specific diet and lifestyle throughout the healing period. You’ll also need to walk frequently and stick to a liquid diet. Failure to adhere to the new diet or failure to get the proper exercise or nutrition postoperatively can add several additional weeks to the healing period.

Everyone heals at different rates.

In the interest of a swift recovery, the best thing you can do is to follow your surgeon's advice.

I give my patients these general guidelines after bariatric surgery:

  1. Stay hydrated. It's easy to become dehydrated during the post-surgery healing process. It’s important to make sure you're not drinking liquids too quickly but instead to sip them gently and constantly, all day long.
  2. Follow your doctor's instructions regarding your regular (non surgery-related) medications. Your doctor will likely advise you to crush your medications before taking them. If you are taking diabetes medication, be sure to discuss this issue specifically with your bariatric surgeon. Time-released medications should not be crushed. You’ll most likely need to swap these out for non time-released versions of the same medication.
  3. Walking is good but avoid heavy lifting. Very mild physical activity like walking helps to increase circulation, prevent blood clots and speed up the healing process. I recommend walking between 20 and 30 minutes per day, starting on the third day after the procedure. Just remember not to lift anything heavy as this can put additional strain on your sutures.
  4. Constipation is very common following surgery and standard pain medications can make the problem worse. Stay in touch with your bariatric surgeon and discuss it with them if it's becoming a serious issue.
  5. Don't take baths or sit in hot tubs. Brief showers are okay after the first few days.
  6. Stick to your diet. During the first week after the procedure you’ll be on a strict diet of clear liquids only. Sugar-free popsicles and clear broth are usually okay. Solid foods, however, are definitely not okay. After the first week you should be able to add protein shakes, and after the second week you can add soft foods like cottage cheese, yogurt, scrambled eggs or pureed foods to your diet.
  7. Remember to take your vitamins. Chewable vitamins are a must for the first two weeks. You should also ask your doctor about taking supplemental iron, vitamin B-12 and calcium citrate as well.

Without more information I can't say for certain whether your goal of getting back to work within two weeks is realistic, but sticking to the above guidelines will help your recovery go as smoothly as possible

In my experience patients are usually able to return to work within three weeks. Many are able to return after only one week, but it depends on the nature of their work.