Bariatric Surgery FAQs

What should I expect during my initial evaluation with the Penn Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Program?

During the initial evaluation, you will meet with the surgeon, nurse/nurse practitioner and dietitian, and undergo a complete history, physical exam and nutrition assessment. You will also discuss what to expect from surgery. This entire process takes about one to two hours. Learn more about the process.

What do I do after the initial screening and prior to surgery?

See What to Expect in Medical Weight Management.

How much time passes between the initial visit and surgery?

On average, the time between your initial visit with the Penn Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Program and surgery is four to seven months. This time frame can vary depending upon the insurance company and the rate at which medical clearances are obtained.

Whom do I contact with questions before surgery?

Individuals interested in scheduling an appointment with the Penn Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Program should call 800-789-PENN (7366). Patients already enrolled in the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Program should call their surgeon’s office directly.

Will I only be able to eat tiny amounts for the rest of my life? Will I be able to eat regular food?

Following surgery, your meals will likely only consist of two to four tablespoons of food. As you advance your diet, you should be eating “regular” food in very small portions within six to eight weeks of surgery.

How do I get my protein when I eat such small amounts?

Protein is a very important part to both healing and weight loss after surgery. Since your food intake is limited, you should incorporate high protein drinks that are low in fat and sugar into your diet. You may also add protein powder to liquids or certain foods. As you continue to increase the amount and types of food that you eat, you should continue to rely on foods high in protein.

Do I have to take vitamin and mineral supplements for the rest of my life?

Yes, most people do. After surgery, you physically will not be able to eat enough volume of food to get enough vitamins and minerals. There are certain vitamins and minerals that are not absorbed properly after surgery also. Most patients need to take a multivitamin, calcium and vitamin B12 for the rest of their lives. Other vitamin and mineral supplements may also be needed and will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

What is dumping syndrome and how do I know if I have it? Are there ways to avoid it?

Dumping syndrome happens when foods or drinks that are high in sugar rapidly enter – or dump into – the small intestine. Following gastric bypass surgery, people are particularly sensitive to sugar, making dumping syndrome a concern.

Dumping is not dangerous but it can cause nausea, dizziness, sweatiness, heart palpitations, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Over time, as the pouch and small intestine learn to work better together, incidents of dumping may decrease.

To avoid dumping syndrome, patients who have had gastric bypass should avoid foods that have sugar – in any form – listed as one of the first three ingredients. Some other names for sugar include:

  • Sucrose glucose
  • Corn syrup maltose
  • Fructose
  • Lactose fruit sugar
  • Dextrose honey
  • Mannitol

People who have undergone gastric bypass surgery should also avoid eating and drinking at the same time as this can also cause dumping syndrome.

Will I lose all of my hair? How do I keep it from falling out?

Hair loss after bariatric surgery is common and tends to happen three to five months post-operation. It is generally caused by poor protein intake, but can be stopped if you commit to consuming a protein-rich diet, particularly right after surgery. It can be caused by many things including not eating enough protein, not taking your multivitamin, or even just from the rapid weight that that happens immediately after surgery. If you are concerned about hair loss, work with your dietitian to help minimize hair loss.

Learn more about hair loss on our blog.

How much will the procedure cost?

Procedure costs depend upon the patient, the surgery and any post-operative difficulties that may occur. In many cases, insurance companies will cover the cost of the surgery since morbid obesity can be a life-threatening condition. You should speak with your insurance company to confirm that the surgery and any related expenses are covered.

If you are interested in paying out of pocket for weight loss surgery, one of our coordinators can discuss the process with you.

How long will I be in the hospital?

On average, a patient who experiences no complications will stay in the hospital for one to three days. This stay may be extended if you experience any complications or need additional observation. Patients can usually return to work four to six weeks after surgery but should not do any heavy lifting or heavy manual labor until cleared by their surgeon (typically six to eight weeks).

How much weight can I expect to lose?

Each person’s weight loss progress is different. On average, a loss of approximately 30 percent of starting weight is expected. Most of this loss is experienced during the first few months following surgery. Weight loss usually continues for about 12 to 18 months after surgery. Healthy eating habits and exercise are critical for safe and successful weight loss.

Are there any side effects?

Side effects vary and are difficult to predict before surgery. Some people report problems such as diarrhea, constipation, excessive gas, nausea and vomiting. Most side effects can be minimized with changes in the diet. Malnutrition is rare with the current procedures although vitamin and mineral supplementation is essential.

Can I get pregnant after weight loss surgery?

It is very important that you do not get pregnant for at least 12 to 18 months after any type of weight loss procedure. You must use a reliable method of birth control throughout this time period. Once your weight has stabilized and the appropriate months have passed, you can become pregnant. It is important, however, to be monitored closely by an obstetrician and nutrition expert familiar with your weight loss surgery.

Are there any medications that I must avoid?

Some medications may put you at higher risk of stomach or intestinal ulcers and should be avoided. These include any type of non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil, aspirin, Excedrin, Motrin, Aleve, ibuprofen, as well as NSAID-containing products like Pepto-Bismol. If you are unsure about whether a medication is safe for you to take, contact the prescribing physician and/or your surgeon.

Is it true that some people regain some of the weight that they lose following the surgery?

In some cases, it is possible to regain weight after weight loss surgery, and there can be many causes. Patients are encouraged to contact their surgeon’s office for a follow up appointment with a nurse practitioner and a dietitian to discuss weight regain and work towards reversing it.

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