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Patients frequently ask about the time needed for recovery after plastic surgery. Fitting a plastic surgery procedure into a busy schedule can be a challenge. Recovery is a very broad term that means different things to different people, depending upon the patient’s vocation and life situation. Because patients’ needs for recovery after plastic surgery is so widely varied, it is always discussed with patients related to their specific situation. All patient questions related to recovery are addressed before and after surgery.

Recovery after plastic surgery is usually relatively brief. For most elective plastic surgery procedures, the recovery period for most activities is a week or less. It is important to follow post-operative instructions provided by the plastic surgeon. It is also important to have close follow-up after surgery because the post-operative plan may change depending on the patient’s particular situation. The post-operative plan is only a starting plan, so modification is not uncommon.

Returning to Daily Activities

Recovery may include returning to daily living activities. As detailed in the post-operative instructions, a return to daily living activities as soon as possible is desirable to ensure circulation. Returning to daily living activities within 24 hours is possible with most plastic surgery procedures. Daily living activities in this context means independent living activities at home such as dressing, preparing meals, and bathing. Many patients can return to daily living activities the day of surgery immediately after the effects of anesthesia have subsided. A good guideline to follow is using comfort level as a guide.

Returning to Work

Many patients that seek plastic surgery procedures are actively employed. In this context, when patients use the term “recovery time,” they are really asking how long it will be before they are able to return to work. In some circumstances, employers will allow return to work with limitations. In some circumstances, employers will allow return to work part time until the patient is able to participate in a full schedule. It is helpful to define the specific employment circumstances prior to surgery to best allow for planning of the recovery period.

Returning to Full-Time Child Care

Recovery may mean providing child care. For patients that are stay-at-home moms (which is the equivalent of at least 2 full time jobs), recovery time is how long it will take to resume child care. This is especially true for toddler-age children that require a lot of time for daily activities. Anticipating and planning for child care is commonly done for patients getting plastic surgery.

Returning to Exercise

Recovery may also mean return to exercise. Many patients that get plastic surgery exercise on a regular basis. Some patients engage in fitness competition and understandably do not want activity restrictions for an extended period of time. As with daily living activities, exercise after plastic surgery helps maintain healthy circulation, which is very important.

After, surgery there is always some degree of swelling, and in some patients, there is also bruising. This is true even for young healthy patients. These post-operative changes usually resolve very quickly. Some plastic surgery procedures are more visible than others. Patients that work in public, like a television news broadcaster, may wish to take more time for recovery. For example, a rhinoplasty (nose reshaping) procedure cannot be concealed with clothing as can some other plastic surgery procedures. In this circumstance, the time taken for recovery is a personal choice.

Unless otherwise instructed, patients should not return to full activity immediately after plastic surgery. Returning to full activity too soon can result in a “setback,” meaning the recovery may end up taking longer than expected. Returning to full activity too soon can also result in wound complications. For example, stress on a wound from activity early in the healing process can result in physical separation of the wound. If there are no wound healing risk factors (meaning normal wound healing can occur) the risk of wound separation diminishes quickly after surgery (days, not weeks or months) as wound healing proceeds. It is during this early period in wound healing that care must be taken to protect the integrity of the wound. This varies widely depending on a myriad of factors.

Recovery time after plastic surgery means different things to different people. So, the times will vary from patient to patient depending upon each patient’s specific situation. Because of the variation in recovery time from patient to patient, estimates for recovery time are generally on the “long side” for most activities.

For more personalized information about how long recovery will take for a specific procedure, please contact our practice to schedule a consultation.