Most patients will experience discomfort after their bariatric surgical procedure, but most describe it as just that – discomfort – and not exceptionally painful. This is one of the great benefits of laparoscopic surgery – where four or five small incisions have replaced the single large incision of traditional open surgery. The majority of patients can manage this pain with nonnarcotic medication. However, some patients do feel more pain than others and may require a few days of narcotic pain relief. During this time, of course, patient should not operate any machinery, drive their car or perform activities that require their full consciousness, as they may be impaired by the narcotic medication.
The rule of thumb is to take the least amount of narcotic pain medication necessary to alleviate the pain and for the shortest amount of time.
Some patients try to be “strong” and fight through the pain with a minimum amount of medication, but this may actually be harmful to the recovery process. Being pain free in early recovery typically allows you to get up and move around more than if you had significant pain. Movement is the key to and uneventful recovery, warding off blood clots and infections. So, if anything, we would rather you not try to fight through the pain.
Of course, there are times where pain is abnormal. If you see redness, foul smelling, thick discharge or feel increasing pain at a wound site over the course of the recovery, this may be a sign of an infection and should be referred to Dr. Higa as soon as possible. If you feel any kind of pain in your extremities, especially your legs, this could be a sign of a blood clot, for which you have a higher risk within the first six weeks after surgery. If you experience shortness of breath or pain in the chest, this could be a sign of a cardiovascular issue or a pulmonary embolism (both rare) and both of which require an immediate call to 911 or a visit to the emergency room.