Bariatric Surgery Preparation & Follow-Up Care

When you choose UNM Health for bariatric surgery, you gain a lifelong partner that provides support, care and guidance to help you reach your weight loss and healthy living goals.

After you complete a free weight loss seminar online and complete and return your new patient packet, we'll invite you to the clinic to meet with our team to kick off your bariatric surgery preparation—three to four months in which you'll commit to:

  • Learning about your procedure
  • Making healthier lifestyle choices
  • Getting yourself ready for major and positive life changes

After surgery, most patients will achieve significant weight loss, have improved health and quality of life. Committing to weight loss surgery is a challenging and rewarding process. Your UNM Health bariatric surgery team is here for you, every step of the way.

Preparing for Bariatric Surgery

Change can be tough, even positive change. In a few years, if all go as planned, you will look and feel like a completely different person. You'll meet with a member of our mental health team to help determine whether you're ready for the emotional, social and behavioral changes associated with bariatric surgery.

It might also help you to seek support from friends, family, a counselor or a spiritual guide. Simply talking with someone about your feelings can help you feel more focused and at ease.

Many patients turn to our before and after surgery support group to connect with people who really understand the ups and downs of weight loss surgery. Ask your care team about attending a support group meeting.

A physical exam may be required for bariatric surgery. The physical exam checks your overall physical health and helps a doctor determine what special care you may need during surgery.

We may also need a few other exams or tests, such as:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Heart, lung and liver function testing
  • Echocardiogram
  • Complete blood count
  • Sleep study - to see if you have obstructive sleep apnea (symptoms include snoring and stopping breathing while you sleep). Starting therapy before surgery can help reduce the risk of heart or breathing complications after surgery.
  • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) – We will use a flexible tube with a small camera attached to examine your esophagus, stomach and upper small intestine. This test gives us a heads up if you have scar tissue or other conditions to work around.

We require patients to quit using tobacco and drinking caffeine (coffee, tea and soda) for at least two months before surgery. Both increase the risk of complications during and after surgery. After surgery, we ask that you continue to avoid tobacco. But you don't have to quit caffeine forever! You can enjoy one to two caffeinated drinks daily starting a couple months after surgery.

In the weeks leading up to your procedure, you'll meet with a dietitian to learn how to create sustainable, healthy eating habits. This includes behavioral tips such as eating slower and chewing more, as well as making food and drink choices that include less fat and sugar.

Bariatric surgery is a major procedure. You will need plenty of rest and some help at home for a successful recovery. To ease your stress prior to surgery, we recommend making your post-surgery plans a few weeks before your procedure.

Use this list as a guide:

  • Plan for a ride home: We will not allow you to drive yourself home from the hospital after surgery. An adult friend or family member must drive you home. Get out and stretch every couple of hours if you're riding a long distance.
  • Consider staying overnight: If you live more than a 90-minute drive from the hospital, considering staying overnight in an Albuquerque hotel to rest.
  • Ask a loved one to stay with you: Even for a night or two. Having someone there to help with household tasks and childcare can make a world of difference in your rest and comfort.
  • Stock up on soap: After surgery, you'll need to touch your incisions frequently for bathing and dressing changes. That means you should wash your hands often to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Plan for time off work: Most patients feel comfortable going back to work after two to three weeks. Your surgeon will help you decide when to go back depending on your line of work and your general health.
  • Communicate with friends and family: Let them know you are investing in a healthier future. This might mean changing your leisure activities and stepping back from certain environments, for a while or permanently.
  • Plan for contraceptives: We recommend patients delay pregnancy for at least a year after bariatric surgery, and ideally until your weight is stable. Talk with your doctor or midwife about birth control options, even if you had fertility problems in the past. Obesity can reduce fertility—losing as little as 20 pounds can result in an unplanned pregnancy.

Follow Up-Care After Surgery

Like taking any trip, your return home will take planning and preparation. It can be overwhelming to think about taking care of yourself at home. Your UNM Health team will be by your side. We're here to answer your questions and set you up for a lifetime of success.

Before you leave the hospital, we'll prepare you for those first few days at home:

  • A dietitian will review your nutrition plan and sample meals to reduce the risk of stomach problems as you recover.
  • We’ll teach you gentle exercises to strengthen your muscles and keep you healthy. Exercising daily can help you lose weight and feel better about yourself.
  • The case manager or social worker will give you information about available support services to help you stay healthy and on track.