Some return to work on a part time basis in as little as 14 days after bariatric surgery, most return to their jobs after 21 days. If you do a lot of lifting and cannot get a light duty status you may need to be out of work for as long as six weeks after bariatric surgery. Your workplace probably has forms for your weight loss surgeon to fill out for you to return to your job. There is a lot on those forms for you to fill out and it is always helpful to do that—for example, your name, your address, the date you had your weight loss surgery. One time a bariatric patient faxed us five pages of these government-issued blank forms. The patient didn’t fill out his name or any information, nor did his fax have a return number on it. The patient became irate that we had not filled them out until he realized that we had no idea who had faxed them to us. Please fill out as much as possible before your weight loss surgeon’s office staff sees them. Also, ask for an extra copy—things do get lost.
Driving…no, you cannot drive home from the hospital
There are a few simple rules about when you can drive. First, if you are taking narcotics, pain pills such as Vicodin, Percocet, Davocet, you should not drive a car. If you drive under the influence of these drugs you can be arrested, put in jail, have your license suspended, and may injure yourself or someone else. Second, you shouldn’t drive until your reaction time has returned to normal. Have you ever been driving along and suddenly notice the person in front of you has stopped? You have to slam on your brakes and just avoid rear-ending them. Well, imagine if your reaction time is one second off—instead of just “missing” the car in front of you, you now have your engine in your lap. If the thought of slamming on your brakes makes your incision hurt, then you shouldn’t be driving. Some weight loss surgeons want bariatric patients to wait two or three weeks, but there are clearly some patients who should wait even longer. I had a knee operation in 1989, and my friends tell me it is still too early for me to drive.
What about bathing, swimming, Jacuzzi???
These are best left up to the weight loss surgeon. Most bariatric doctors want patients to wait for a month before baptism.
When to call your weight loss surgeon
Call your bariatric surgeon when any of the following happens:
- Pus comes out of the incision site
- The wound becomes progressively more red
- Red streaking from the incision site
- The wound becomes unusually tender
- Your temperature is greater than 101
- You have yellow or green FOUL smelling drainage
Some clear yellow drainage is normal from your incision site. This liquid is generally liquefied fat cells that were destroyed when we made our grand entrance into your body.
Things you can and can’t do to the wound
- It is okay to allow soap and water to run over it
- Do not use Neosporin® or other ointments on it
- Do not bathe or swim for three weeks
- If you are outside in the sun, the wound will burn easily, so keep it covered
- After a couple months it is okay to use sunblock on the incision site