Caring for surgical incisions following bariatric surgery is a common concern among patients. Although weight loss surgery is typically performed using a laparoscopic approach, post-bariatric surgery incision care is still very important and critical to your comfort post-operatively.

Laparoscopic surgery is performed with slender instruments which are inserted through multiple small incisions, usually no more than one inch in length. Surgeons generally create about 5 to 6 of these small openings on the abdomen. These incisions are commonly sealed with absorbable sutures beneath the skin, and a skin adhesive may be applied for additional protection.

In this article, we will delve into the optimal methods for post-bariatric surgery incision care, aiming to avoid infections or other complications.

Post-Bariatric Surgery Incision Care

Patients often inquire about the appropriate time to shower and the healing process of their incisions post-surgery. Usually, you are permitted to shower the day after your procedure, though specific instructions may vary depending on the closure technique used.

A key aspect of post-bariatric surgery incision care is avoiding over-cleaning. It’s important not to scrub the incisions or remove scabs. Avoid using alcohol or peroxide on the incisions. A simple, gentle cleansing with soap and water during your regular shower routine is usually sufficient, unless your surgeon advises otherwise.

If your surgeon has used skin adhesive (such as Dermabond) or adhesive strips (like Steri-Strips) on the incisions, refrain from picking or removing them. Additionally, it’s advisable not to immerse the incisions in water or go swimming for the first week or two post-surgery.

The Importance of Monitoring Your Incisions Post-Bariatric Surgery

Even though bariatric surgery is considered minimally invasive, it typically involves making 5 to 7 small incisions on the body. These incisions are small but crucial for the surgery’s success. Post-surgery, it’s common for these incisions to release a small amount of fluid, which might be clear or have a slight reddish tint. This is a normal part of the healing process and can typically be managed effectively with a simple gauze dressing. It’s essential to keep these dressings clean and dry to promote optimal healing.

As the body recovers from surgery, patients may experience swelling and bruising around the incision sites. This is a natural response as the body heals, and it tends to become more noticeable about a week after the procedure. In certain situations, patients might observe a darker, blood-tinged discharge from the corners of the incisions. This could be a sign that the incision needs further medical evaluation, potentially requiring aspiration to remove accumulated fluid or even additional drainage.

The risk of wound infections in bariatric surgery is relatively low, generally less than 1%. However, it’s crucial to monitor for signs of infection closely. These signs include an increase in pain at the incision site, redness and swelling, or a discharge that is cloudy or has an unpleasant odor. Any of these symptoms should be reported to your surgeon immediately for evaluation and potential treatment.

Another concern post-surgery is the development of hematomas, which are collections of blood within the incision area. Hematomas can cause localized pain, often more intense than in other areas of the incision, while the surrounding skin may look relatively normal. These require close monitoring as they can sometimes necessitate medical intervention.

Despite these potential issues, it’s important to note that incisions from bariatric surgery are usually a minor concern. Most patients experience effective healing without significant complications. To aid in this, maintaining a gentle approach to post-operative care is essential.

Returning to Normal Activities

Regarding physical activity post-surgery, it’s generally encouraged to start walking as soon as the same day of the procedure. This helps promote circulation and aids in the overall recovery process. However, it’s advised to avoid engaging in activities that involve lifting heavy objects for three to four weeks after surgery. Lifting can put undue strain on the incisions, increasing the risk of tearing or other complications.

If any form of physical activity leads to discomfort or pain specifically at the incision site or the abdomen, it’s advisable to avoid those exercises. Typically, internal healing from the surgery occurs within a week or two, allowing most normal activities without adversely affecting the incisions. It’s important to listen to your body and limit activities to those that do not cause discomfort or pain. This approach helps ensure that your recovery from bariatric surgery is as smooth and complication-free as possible.