Surgical Recovery Timelines and How to PlanDecember 9, 2021
Why You Should Plan Your Surgery Around Recovery – & Why Now Is The Best Time To Start
Plastic surgery is a journey that takes planning, so starting sooner rather than later is a great way to ensure your experience goes smoothly. By embarking now, you can get a head start learning more about your options when it comes to timing, financing, and recovery!
General Recovery Timelines
Specific surgeries will have slight differences in terms of exact recovery time expectations, but all surgeries have periods that are specific to downtime along with their own activity restrictions. Every recovery timeline will also be dependent on you. You may naturally be quicker or slower to heal than others. Our Patient Care Team is trained to understand and assist you no matter your recovery timeline!
Breast Surgery – 3-5 Days of Downtime
At about one week, you will feel almost back to normal, but you must continue to adhere by activity restrictions set by your medical team.
Abdominal Surgery – 7-10 Days of Downtime
Similar to breast surgeries, the remainder of the month is spent getting back to feeling normal with established activity restrictions.
Facial Surgery – A Few Days of Downtime
Downtime is coupled with activity restrictions that are specific to the kind of facial surgery. The main consideration is that facial surgeries often come with swelling and bruising for the first week or two. During this time, you may want to stay at home regardless of feeling better.
Arm or Leg Surgery – About One Week of Downtime
Oftentimes, arm and leg surgeries will have more activity restrictions than other kinds of surgeries.
*Note: For the purpose of this article, “downtime” is time designated specifically for resting. This is the time when you would be taking prescribed pain medication. “Activity restrictions” refers to the time spent after downtime. This is when you would feel more able to complete everyday activities.
Should I stay in a recovery center?
Our board-certified plastic surgeons recommend you heal in the comfort of your own home after surgery. Occasionally, they may recommend staying in a hotel or in a surgery recovery center (often if the patient lives far away), but that is rare.
Our team will prepare you to understand your post-operative care instructions and expectations, so you feel comfortable during your recovery period.
What are some tips to make recovery easier and/or quicker?
- Wear your compression garments as instructed.
- Eat/drink protein.
- Stay hydrated.
- Stock up on stool softener just in case.
- Rest! You may feel back to normal a week or two after surgery, but your body is still healing internally. You must follow activity restrictions in order for your body to fully recovery in a safe way. Doing too much too soon is the leading cause of increased pain.
Why do some surgeons have different estimated recovery timelines for their patients?
Your recovery experience is directly correlated to what happens in the operating room. In general terms, when a surgeon takes their time and is very meticulous and detail-oriented during the surgery, then recovery can be easier and quicker.
When can I…?
- Go back to work?
- Stationary work (“desk jobs”): Typically, one week but sometimes two
- Physical work:
- At least two weeks, and you may have to return with activity restrictions from the surgeon
- Play with my kids?
- For the first month post-op, lifting, stretching, pulling, pushing, and bending will be restricted. Most recovery timelines include a 15-lb lifting limitation for that full first month as well. Make sure to arrange childcare help if you have young kids during your recovery period, particularly within the first two weeks.
- Light exercise is okay after the first two weeks. Make sure to closely follow all activity restriction guidelines. Try to avoid raising your heart rate too much, as this can increase swelling.
Planning Around Work
The timeline for returning to work depends on the kind of surgery and what you do at work. Some recovery times only require a long weekend, whereas some may require several weeks.
How Can I Take Time Off Work For Recovery?
Your plastic surgery clinic can submit documentation to your employer to ask for time off work:
- Paid time off: PTO can be submitted internally and is a great way to ensure your time is reserved for recovery.
- FMLA: The Family and Medical Leave Act allows for patients to take unpaid medical leave. Whether this is approved is entirely up to your employer.
- Disability: This is similar to FMLA and is another option to get unpaid time off work.
- Work excuses/Doctor’s note: Even after returning to work, you may have work restrictions, particularly if your job involves manual labor. Your plastic surgery clinic can send this documentation to your employer, and they must adhere to these through your approved FMLA or disability.
Now is the Best Time to Begin!
Beginning your surgical process now is the best way to secure your specific timeline. You can book your surgery as far out as you’d like but having your consultation sooner rather than later will ensure that you have options.
Ready to Get Started?
We invite you to call (614)-442-7610 to get on Dr. Donaldson’s or Dr. Sieffert’s schedule!
About The Author
With more than 20 years of experience in his field, Jeffrey Donaldson, MD is a leading mind when it comes to plastic surgery planning and recovery. He has helped countless patients feel their absolute best with his advanced surgical expertise and he continues to research the best methods to ensure a safer, more comfortable experience.