Expert Q & A: Why is it important to follow up after bariatric surgery?
Written by Julia Jurgensen, APRN, C.N.P., D.N.P.. Julia is a nurse practitioner for the bariatric surgery practice in Mayo Clinic, Rochester.
This is a common question in our clinic, as people often feel they are doing well after surgery and are not sure why they need to be seen in follow up. However, these appointments are important because it ensures that you are making necessary lifestyle changes including dietary or vitamin changes after surgery. One of the components of your follow up care is routine monitoring of labs to check for any more serious nutritional problems that could develop after surgery. Additionally, you will work with your bariatric team including dietitians and medical providers to ensure that you remain healthy after surgery.
Typically, patients are asked to follow up more often in the first year than in subsequent years after surgery, but this does not mean there is less risk for nutritional problems. In reality, patients tend to have more nutritional problems further out from surgery. This occurs due to nutrient stores being reduced over time, not taking recommended vitamins, as well as changing dietary habits. These are some of the reasons it is critical to monitor labs after surgery.
Another common concern after surgery and reason why follow up is important is dietary changes (which commonly change after bariatric surgery). Patients' focuses over time change and often this leads to changes in eating habits. Additionally, many people find that it easier to consume more foods including those that are higher in calories, fats or sugars but do not contain adequate protein to meet their post-surgery needs of 60-80+ grams of protein daily. Follow up with the bariatric team will often bring these diet habits into light for patients and the focus can be adjusted.
Additionally, maintaining exercise routines can be challenging over time. Follow up visits provide an opportunity to discuss decreased activity, its impact on overall health and weight, and set goals to resume exercise. Physical activity is an important aspect of the post bariatric surgery lifestyle to ensure long term weight management success after surgery.
Follow up with the bariatric surgery team provides support patients need for long term success with weight management, as well as ensures patients are nutritionally stable with labs and review of dietary intake.
Connect with others who have had bariatric surgery talking about long term success in the Healthy Living support group.