Is Gastric Sleeve Painful

Is Gastric Sleeve Painful?

As more individuals turn to bariatric surgery to address obesity and its related health concerns, the gastric sleeve procedure has gained popularity for its effectiveness in promoting weight loss. However, a common concern among those considering this surgery is the fear of pain associated with the procedure. In this blog, we will explore the pain levels associated with gastric sleeve surgery, debunking myths and providing a realistic perspective to help potential patients make informed decisions.

Understanding Gastric Sleeve Procedure

Gastric sleeve surgery is a popular weight loss surgery that removes approximately 75% of the stomach. During the procedure, the surgeon staples and cuts away a large portion of the stomach, leaving a narrow, vertical sleeve shaped pouch.

Many people consider gastric sleeve surgery because of its effectiveness for weight loss and potential to resolve other obesity-related health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure. However, it is normal to have concerns about possible pain and discomfort during and after the procedure. So is gastric sleeve surgery painful? Here’s an overview of what to expect.

Pain Levels During Surgery

Gastric sleeve is performed laparoscopically, meaning small incisions are made in the abdomen and a tiny camera and instruments are inserted to operate on the stomach. This is considered minimally invasive and most patients report experiencing minimal pain during the actual surgery.

You will be under general anesthesia so that you remain asleep, comfortable and pain-free throughout the operation. The surgery itself usually takes 1-2 hours. As you wake up from anesthesia, you may feel some pain or nausea, which your medical team can quickly treat with medications.

Pain in the Hospital After Surgery

It is common to have some pain and soreness in your abdomen and incision sites after your gastric sleeve operation. Your hospital care team will use several pain management techniques to keep you as comfortable as possible:

  • IV pain medications: You will have IV access to fast-acting pain relief medications that you can self-administer by pushing a button connected to your IV line. This gives you control to medicate when you start feeling pain.
  • Injection or oral pain medications: Additional or alternative pain medications may be given through shots or to swallow.
  • Supportive devices: A special pillow or binder may be provided to splint your abdomen for support and comfort.

Using medication around-the-clock along with supportive care, your pain is usually well-managed between a scale of 1-5 out of 10. Taking deep breaths, moving carefully, drinking fluids, and working with your care team is key to an optimal recovery.

READ: What is The Recovery Time For Gastric Sleeve Surgery?

Pain After Discharge from the Hospital

It is normal to have some degree of abdominal pain, cramping or fatigue for several weeks after surgery as your body heals. This should steadily improve each day and week. Most gastric sleeve patients say their pain was manageable with prescribed medications, usually needing the strong drugs for just a week and over-the-counter meds like acetaminophen or ibuprofen for 1-2 more weeks.

Your surgeon will advise you how to gradually return to normal eating, activity levels and medications. Following their recovery instructions carefully, along with rest and nutrition, will give your body the best chance to heal faster. Stay alert about any signs of complications, like increasing pain, vomiting or fever, and contact your bariatric medical team if concerned.

Ongoing Pain After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

While unusual, some sleeve patients deal with chronic pain even months after their procedure. Some potential causes of ongoing pain include:

  • Infection at incision sites
  • Blood clots
  • Ulcers
  • Gallstones
  • Scar tissue
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Bowel obstructions

Symptoms to watch for are fever, vomiting, chest pain, abdominal pain that keeps getting worse or comes and goes, and difficulty eating/drinking enough.

If you have any concerning or worsening pain after surgery, contact your bariatric surgeon right away to determine the cause and treatment options.

How to Manage Pain After Gastric Sleeve

Here are some tips to effectively manage pain after gastric sleeve surgery:

  • Take medications as prescribed. Don’t try to tough it out. Staying on top of pain aids healing.
  • Ice the areas that hurt to reduce swelling. Use ice packs or bags of frozen vegetables wrapped in cloth.
  • Walk slowly and carefully to relieve gas buildup. Movement also prevents blood clots.
  • Get lots of rest. Your body needs extra sleep to repair itself after this major operation.
  • Attend all follow-up appointments to monitor for potential complications.
  • Stay hydrated by sipping on protein shakes, broths, and electrolyte drinks.
  • Avoid heavy lifting, straining, or vigorous exercise in the first 4-6 weeks.
  • Support incisions with a pillow or blanket when moving or coughing.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing that doesn’t rub or irritate surgical sites.
  • Manage constipation with stool softeners, laxatives, gentle activity and lots of fluids.

Does Gastric Sleeve Surgery Hurt Less than Other Weight Loss Surgeries?

Compared to gastric bypass surgery which has more intestinal rearrangement or lap band procedures with adjusting the band, most patients report less postoperative pain and complications with gastric sleeve surgery. Since no foreign devices or rerouting of your digestive system are involved, your body generally tolerates the sleeve procedure well.

However, everyone manages pain differently based on factors like their health status, pain tolerance and complication risks. Talk to your bariatric surgery team about your unique considerations so they can advise you on what to expect.

Preparing Mentally and Physically for Surgery

To cope better with surgery and recovery, focus on preparing your mind and body. This includes having realistic expectations about pain and limitations, planning for help at home, and embracing a positive but patient mindset. Prioritize following your preoperative diet and health optimization plan from your bariatric team too.


While the idea of undergoing surgery can be daunting, it’s essential to separate myths from reality when considering the gastric sleeve procedure. Thanks to advancements in medical science and surgical techniques, the pain associated with gastric sleeve surgery has been significantly minimized. With proper pain management and adherence to postoperative care instructions, individuals can embark on their weight loss journey with confidence, knowing that the discomfort is temporary and the benefits can be life-changing.

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Our experienced bariatric surgeons provide expert care through every step of this life-changing process. Contact us now to start your weight loss journey!

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