Is Bariatric Surgery Painful?

Posted on: 17th May, 2024


People considering bariatric surgery, or metabolic surgery as it’s increasingly known, have a series of questions. One of the most common is whether bariatric surgery is painful. The short answer is not very! Every surgical procedure carries with it some degree of pain or at least discomfort. But millions of us undergo surgery every year and manage to get through that pain pretty well, so where does bariatric surgery rank? Let’s review.

Where Does Bariatric Surgery Rank On The Pain Scale?

You may be surprised to learn that bariatric surgery ranks pretty low on the standard 1-10 pain scale. Keep in mind that sleeve gastrectomy is a minimally invasive procedure done with 4-5 small Band-aids and takes perhaps 30 minutes. So, there are no big cuts and no big traumatic steps that might hurt our bones and tendons and things. And the good news is that the internal organs like the stomach don’t hurt at all with being cut or partially removed. Those organs don’t have that kind of pain receptor. Actually, the stomach and intestines only hurt when bloated or distended, which feels like gas pains.

Postoperative pain management is of course a crucial aspect of surgical care, impacting patient satisfaction, recovery time and overall outcomes. Among various surgical procedures, laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy stands out as a minimally painful option. Sleeve gastrectomy has gained popularity as a primary treatment for obesity due to its effectiveness in weight loss and low complication rates. Most, but not every, patient does receive opioid pain medication for a couple of days following the procedure but then quickly wean off to use a little Tylenol.

Let’s take a closer look at the sleeve gastrectomy procedure itself.

What Makes Sleeve Gastrectomy Low On The Pain Scale?

Sleeve gastrectomy is performed using minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques, which involve making small incisions in the abdomen which allows specialized surgical instruments and a camera to then be used. Compared to traditional open surgery, laparoscopic approaches result in less tissue trauma, reduced blood loss and faster recovery. The smaller incisions lead to less tissue disruption and nerve irritation, which means less postoperative pain.

During sleeve gastrectomy, a large portion of the stomach is removed, leaving behind a sleeve-shaped stomach roughly the size of a banana. Despite the extent of the procedure, the removal of the stomach is accomplished using advanced surgical techniques that minimize trauma to surrounding tissues. By preserving the nerves and blood vessels in the abdomen, which reduces stimulation to the pain receptors, we can minimize postoperative pain and promoting faster healing.

Advancements in perioperative care and pain management techniques have also contributed to the reduced pain associated with sleeve gastrectomy. Pain management medications, which offer effective pain relief and help minimize side effects, are paired with protocols like gentle movement and an appropriate diet, all of which have reduced postoperative pain and accelerated recovery.

Of course, the best people to judge the pain level of bariatric surgery are the patients themselves! People undergoing sleeve gastrectomy typically report milder postoperative pain compared to other surgical procedures, which allows for quicker return to normal activities and improved quality of life. Reduced pain levels mean less reliance on opioid medications, which lowers the risk of opioid-related side effects and complications, such as respiratory depression, nausea and constipation.

The Bottom Line

When compared to other surgical procedures, such as open gastric bypass or bariatric surgery, orthopedic procedure, spine surgery and many others, sleeve gastrectomy consistently ranks among the least painful options. There are studies evaluating postoperative pain levels across different surgical techniques that consistently demonstrate lower pain scores and reduced analgesic requirements in patients undergoing sleeve gastrectomy, and we hear the same from many of our patients as well.

If you’re considering bariatric surgery, don’t let the fear of pain stand in your way. We’d love to discuss the procedure and answer all of your questions, and we invite you to contact the Nevada Surgical team today to learn more

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