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Follow-up Visits After Bariatric Surgery
Bariatric surgery (weight loss surgery) provides a tool for individuals struggling with weight management. Common procedures such as the gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy reduce the size of the stomach and change the way nutrients are digested and absorbed.
Just as important as the surgery are the regularly scheduled follow-up visits in the post-operative period. Follow-up visits are often scheduled every 3-6 months during the first year after bariatric surgery. During the second year, visits are typically every six months. During the third year and after, follow-up visits are expected at least annually. Below are some reasons for scheduled visits.
It is important to establish lifestyle practices in terms of daily nutrition, exercise routine and adjustments in personal environment in order to facilitate weight loss. Routine follow-up visits provide a means of accountability in those efforts.
Monitoring Weight Loss
Weight loss after bariatric surgery can be very rapid for some patients or it can be slower than expected for others. Routine visits help to ensure that weight loss is occurring in a healthy manner and also helps to identify factors that may be preventing the desired weight loss results.
Assessing Nutritional Status
A protein-based diet with vitamin supplements is very important after weight loss surgery. There is a significant risk of malnutrition due to the small size of the stomach and associated changes in digestion and nutrient absorption. Routine follow-up visits allow for assessment of malnutrition based on clinical exam and specific blood tests that are done at intervals in the post-op period.
Assessing Change In Health Conditions
Many obesity-related medical problems improve with bariatric surgery. It is important to have close medical follow-up to adjust medications or even eliminate medications for conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Some conditions will also require changes in equipment and treatment settings, eg., sleep apnea. Routine follow-up also allows monitoring to identify the potential for recurrence of any health problems.
Assessing Mental Challenges
There are many mental challenges after bariatric surgery including changes with the relationship with food, emotional coping mechanisms, changes in interpersonal relationships, changes in personal attention from others, and dealing with the physical body changes. Routine follow-up visits provide a forum to discuss these issues and consider potential solutions.
Surveillance for Complications
Although most patients do well after bariatric surgery, complications can and still do occur. It is important to know the symptoms of potential complications and have medical evaluation to appropriately diagnose and treat any such problems.