Recovering After Surgery: How Long Will It Take?

How Long Should My Recovery Last

Doctor talking to recovering patient after surgery
Sean Locke/Stocksy United

The length of time you will require for a complete recovery after surgery is difficult for anyone to predict. It is truly an educated guess for medical professionals, as there is always the potential for complications and every person heals differently.

You may have had a friend who has the same surgery you are having, but your recoveries can and often will have entirely different timelines, and the final outcome can be dramatically different as well.

 Even if you had a twin, and you had the same surgery on the same day, you wouldn't expect to have identical recoveries because you are not the same person.  One person might be better at listening to the discharge instructions--and following them--while another person might be healthier overall and bounce back more quickly. 

Your Surgeon Should Predict Your Recovery Time

Your surgeon will have the best idea of how long your recovery can take.  Your surgeon may be the only person who is aware of all the facets of your health, including your age, any medical conditions you may have, the specifics of your procedure, and other factors that could potentially impact your recovery.  Something as simple as your age could dramatically change the length of time your recovery will last. 

The knowledge of exactly what procedure is being done and exactly how it will be done is an important component of predicting recovery time.

 While each patient is unique, many surgeries can be done in several different ways.  A hysterectomy, for example, can be done in a variety of ways and the different types of procedures have entirely different predicted recovery times.

 A minimally invasive hysterectomy may require only a few weeks of recovery time if it is done using tiny incision in the abdomen, while the open procedure with the long abdominal incision could take ten to twelve weeks for recovery, not to mention the vaginal hysterectomy that uses an internal incision and has a completely different recovery time when compared to the other two types of hysterectomies.

 This is another reason why predictions of how long your recovery will take vary widely from one source to another, especially when the information comes from someone other than your surgeon.

Follow Instructions For a Faster Recovery

One of the things that you can do to speed your recovery time is to listen to your discharge instructions, read the materials that you are given and then follow those instructions.  It sounds overly simplistic, but a staggering amount of surgery patients are in such a hurry to leave the hospital that they don't listen to the education they are being provided and they don't bother to read the information they are given.  

Patients often wonder why they are in so much pain, or why their wound is infected, or why they are experiencing so many difficulties with their recovery when they never even took the time to find out what they were supposed to be doing during their recovery.

My Friend Had This Surgery...

Take you friend's advice as what it is: free advice from someone who has been through the procedure you will be having. They may not be a surgery expert, but you may get some helpful hints from your friend, such as whether or not they needed help with the essentials of life (taking a shower, cooking a meal) and what worked for them when they had pain or discomfort.

You can expect your friend's advice to be helpful, and you can expect your surgeon's advice to be accurate and based on extensive expert knowledge.  Both types of advice are valuable, but your doctor is the one to call right away if you have complications.

Your surgeon's advice is expert advice when predicting how long it will take before you are ready to return to all of your normal activities.

Ten Ways to Recover Faster After Surgery

A Word From VeryWell

The prediction of how long it will take you to recover from surgery is an educated guess by your surgeon.  It is a very educated guess, but a guess all the same, as no one can predict if you will have complications, which complications you might have or how well you will follow your surgeon's discharge instructions.

 

Your surgeon has the best chances of estimating your recovery time accurately, but you will have the greatest impact on your recovery by following instructions and taking care of yourself during the days and weeks after surgery.

Sources:

Having Surgery? What You Need To Know. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. www.ahrq.gov/consumer/surgery/surgery.pdf

How Can I Recover From Heart Surgery? The American Heart Association. 2007. http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_300447.pdf

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