Side effects of gastric sleeve surgery

Let's take a moment to look at some of the surgery side effects and what patients may be able to do to alleviate these issues.

What Happens During Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Gastric sleeve surgery, also called a sleeve gastrectomy, is a popular option for surgical weight loss. During the procedure, the size of a patient’s stomach is permanently altered by stapling it vertically, removing the larger curved portion, and closing the area with sutures. Thanks to the reduction in stomach size, patients consume fewer calories and lose weight rapidly and safely as a result.

Even though the gastric sleeve procedure is much less invasive than a gastric bypass and other kinds of weight loss surgeries, you need to consider the side effects.

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Bruising and Swelling

Bruising and swelling are also common side effects that patients can experience after any surgical procedure. Thankfully, these are only temporary side effects that will fade on their own with time.

Major bruising typically fades by the end of two weeks, while minor bruising may persist for a month. Swelling is also common for about a month, although you may experience some minor swelling for a few months.

For both bruising and swelling, patients should consider light walking during recovery, as this activity helps promote blood circulation and improves healing.

Soreness and Discomfort

Soreness and discomfort are one of the most common side effects of any surgery. Even though the procedure is performed laproscopically, you will notice some discomfort around the abdominal region. Manage your pain by getting proper rest, especially in the days immediately following surgery, and by taking any prescribed pain relievers as recommended.


Hiccups remain a bit of a mystery with regard to bariatric surgery procedures and their side effects. They can occur frequently, with no rhyme or reason. Many patients notice that eating or drinking too fast can trigger hiccups, which is why it's important to savor your food and drink water slowly in between meals.


Nausea is one of the more common side effects. Changes in your diet, your digestive tract, and your eating habits after surgery all contribute to occasional feelings of nausea after the procedure. While it’s not clear what causes nausea, it’s normal and may be partly due to food staying in your stomach for longer periods. Your body is becoming attuned to its needs, and this slight discomfort may end up becoming useful to your health in the long run.

Hair Loss

The major changes to your diet and digestive tract may also cause your body to experience stress, which can lead to hair thinning as your follicles switch to a temporary resting phase. Your hair loss will stop and reverse itself in the months ahead as you recover from surgery side effects your body gets used to your new diet, and you become healthy again.


Diarrhea can be a serious problem for some patients that persists long after surgery. This problem can occur for several reasons, including alterations in gut microbiota and rapid exposure of the small intestine to undigested nutrients. Cases that last for a long time can lead to dehydration and malnutrition.

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Long-Term Problems

Sometimes, patients experience long-term problems as a result of gastric-sleeve surgery side effects. Some issues can be managed by medications, while others may require a revision procedure. The most common problems are:

  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)—Heartburn and other GERD symptoms, such as bloating, feelings of fullness, and upset stomach, are common after surgery and require medication.
  • Stomach Ulcers—Also known as peptic ulcers, these are more common after gastric sleeve surgery and are typically diagnosed during an upper endoscopy when a patient experiences bleeding or pain in the stomach area.
  • Gallstones—These are more common after all types of bariatric surgery, making a cholecystectomy to remove the gallbladder more common for bariatric patients.
  • Stomach Obstruction—Scarring and narrowing of the outlet of the stomach can make it difficult or even impossible to digest food. Surgeons typically fix this complication by stretching or surgically fixing the area that has narrowed.

Follow Pre-op and Post-op Instructions to the Letter

The best way to deal with any side effects after gastric sleeve surgery is to prepare properly for the healing process. Follow all pre-op instructions to the letter as well as your post-op instructions very carefully. Pre-op instructions get your body ready for the healing process, ensuring the best health possible going into surgery. Post-op instructions will give you the info you need to heal properly and quickly.

We can discuss all aspects of surgery in greater detail during a virtual consultation with one of our coordinators.

Gastric Sleeve Regrets? Here are a Few

Does anyone genuinely regret undergoing gastric sleeve surgery to lose weight? Those who have performed their due diligence about the procedure sought out a skilled bariatric surgeon, and followed their doctor's advice rarely regret undergoing sleeve gastrectomy. Little data is available about post-surgical satisfaction regarding gastric sleeve, yet a study published in Obesity Surgery in 2021 indicates that generally, patients did not regret their decision to undergo surgery but had regrets that they did not have realistic expectations of gastric sleeve results. In other words, most indicated that they knew more about bariatric surgery and the challenges they would face in their post-surgical life.

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Are There True Gastric Sleeve Regrets?

In a way, one could say yes. Some bariatric patients regret choosing gastric sleeves because they were disappointed about not reaching their weight loss goals. Failure to lose enough weight with a gastric sleeve is a prime reason for revision surgery. However, creating a smaller new stomach via sleeve gastrectomy provides for easy conversion into gastric bypass or other bariatric procedures that have a malabsorptive component, allowing patients to lose additional excess weight.

The amount and rate at which patients drop pounds after weight loss surgery depend on factors that include:

  • Age
  • Biological sex
  • Starting weight
  • Body type
  • Genetics
  • Exercise habits
  • Committing to a nutrition plan

You simply won't know your results until you are in the midst of your weight loss journey. That's why it's important not to create expectations before surgery so you won't have gastric sleeve regrets. Your results will be different than those of the next person, so don't measure your results against someone else's weight loss.

What You Wish You Knew Before Bariatric Surgery

Patients expressing what they wish they would have known before their surgery may be a more accurate way of expressing gastric sleeve regrets. Here are some of the most common regrets and what you can do to deal with them.

Regret #1 - Not Realizing How Much Your Relationship With Food Will Change

Eating is an emotional experience. Food is not just for survival. It's about socializing, self-reward, and often an emotional outlet. Many patients report disinterest in food, a common psychological regret, after gastric sleeve. You may want to enjoy your meals so badly, yet you find eating a chore. Getting extreme pleasure out of eating is a sign of food addiction, and if you don't change your eating habits and continue to eat junk food or overeat, you can derail your weight loss goals. Work with our bariatric dietician or a psychologist who can help repair your relationship with food.

Regret #2 - Not Learning to Eat Slowly Before Surgery

Eating too fast can make you overeat, but you'll also encounter another, bigger problem: food can get caught in your stomach pouch, causing pain. Some foods can become easily stuck, so always chew your food thoroughly before swallowing and pause between bites. Make each bite tiny, and chew your food to the consistency of mashed potatoes. Eventually, this mindful practice will help you manage and enjoy eating again.

Regret #3 - Dealing With Excess Skin

With massive weight loss can come lots of excessive, stretched skin. Although not everyone experiences excessive skin, your age, skin elasticity, and the amount of weight, you lose following bariatric surgery can make your skin droopy in areas like the neck, arms, shoulders, stomach, back, chest, legs, and private areas. Skin removal surgery performed by a plastic surgeon can help restore your emotional health, improve self-confidence, and make your clothes fit great

Regret #4 - Experiencing Hair Loss

Hair loss is a common side effect of rapid weight loss because you eat less food and absorb fewer nutrients, thereby stressing the body. This condition is temporary. Nevertheless, it is frustrating. Hair loss typically occurs between three and six months after surgery and can last up to a year after your surgery date. To minimize hair loss, consume a minimum of 70 grams of protein for women and 80-90 grams for men daily and take the recommended vitamin supplements.

Regret #5 - Body Dysmorphia, Still Seeing an Obese Person in the Mirror

It may sound strange, but after sleeve gastrectomy, you may see the new version of yourself that everyone else does, no matter how much weight you lose. Your body may change so rapidly post-surgery that your mind may not be able to comprehend the difference, especially during the first 12 months. Because of this, many people still view themselves as obese or unhealthy, no matter how much weight they have lost.

Regret #6 - Losing Weight is Hard Work

Your healthcare provider counseled you that weight loss surgery is a tool to lose excess weight and not a magic pill, but did you think it would be that hard? Probably not. You'll have a lot to learn, like the difference between "head hunger" and true, physical hunger. You may feel like you are on an emotional rollercoaster and may question your mental health when you feel depressed over plateaus and other setbacks. Get help from mental health professionals if post-surgery blues are getting the best of you.

Regret #7 - I Didn't Sign Up for the Side Effects

Serious side effects are rare but keep in mind that gastric sleeve is a major surgical procedure. Bariatric surgery has altered your anatomy, and your stomach will need time to heal and adjust. Keep in mind that even though pesky side effects like gas pain, nausea, belching, indigestion, and incision pain are pesky, most side effects are only temporary. Follow doctor recommendations to minimize discomfort.

Regret #8 - Why Didn't I Get Gastric Sleeve Surgery Sooner?

Perhaps the only regret shared among most patients is why they didn't get weight loss surgery sooner. Once patients experience significant weight loss along with the resolution of conditions like high blood pressure, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, and other metabolic disorders that prevent good health. Having a sleeve gastrectomy is an act of self-love as it is an investment in your life. Changing your life by following a bariatric diet, exercising and taking vitamin supplements, and adopting an overall healthy lifestyle will help you achieve success in your weight loss journey.

Side effects to gastric sleeve surgery can take place. However, you do have some control in managing your operation and recovery. In any event, serious side effects are not the norm.

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Contact Tijuana Bariatric Center

For more information about gastric sleeve surgery (and side effects) and how it can help you lose weight and improve your overall health and wellness, contact our team of bariatric surgery specialists today by calling 800-970-0577. The entire team here at Tijuana Bariatric Center looks forward to your visit and helping you achieve total wellness.

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