There are no hard and fast rules about how long you should wait between surgeries. Ask 10 surgeons and you may get 10 different answers.
Especially elective surgery, there is no reason to rush. Elective surgery can correct problems that are not life-threatening. It is best to fully recover from one elective surgery before proceeding to another elective surgery.
However, surgery for serious illness or trauma is different. Some patients require multiple surgeries in a short period of time. In these cases, the risk is understandable, but the risk of not proceeding can be much higher. In life-threatening situations, it is not uncommon for a person to have multiple surgeries in a few days. Some people are known to have dozens in a month.
This article discusses the timing of multiple surgeries and the benefits and risks of waiting. It also provides some tips on how to know when you’re ready for your next surgery.
Weigh the pros and cons
People who have a dozen or more surgeries in a month tend to be the sickest people in the hospital. They may be trauma patients who require repeated surgeries to repair broken bones. They may be burn patients who need multiple skin grafts. For these patients, waiting may do more harm than good.
However, rushing to the next surgery may do more harm than good if waiting doesn’t pose potential problems. When you have two back-to-back surgeries in a short period of time, your risk of complications increases significantly. You may also take longer to recover.
There are some exceptions. There may be practical reasons for bringing the two surgeries together. For example, let’s say it’s almost the end of the year. You have reached the policy’s annual deductible and maximum out-of-pocket costs. You may want to have both procedures before January 1st, when you will have to pay more out of pocket.
If you’re in a hurry to have a second surgery because you hit your insurance deductible, work with your healthcare provider. Try to schedule surgery and hospital stays as close to the end of the year as possible.
Even so, don’t let money get in the way of common sense. If the second surgery is elective and rushing could put you at unnecessary risk, you probably don’t want to risk it. This is especially true if you are older or in poor health.
Recommended waiting time
How long surgeons want people to wait between surgeries.
Most healthcare providers will recommend waiting 6 to 12 weeks between procedures. A longer wait is recommended for surgeries involving:
- massive blood loss
- under anesthesia for a long time
- Destruction or removal of major organs or tissues
If you need more than one surgery, the first is usually the one that addresses the most serious problems. For example, you may need nose surgery to fix breathing problems that aren’t life-threatening. You may also need open heart surgery. In this case, heart surgery is performed first, and nose surgery must wait 12 weeks. A better functioning heart will reduce the risk of complications from anesthesia during the second surgery.
Open heart surgery is a good example of a procedure that requires a longer wait time. Any surgery that takes hours under general anesthesia will have a longer recovery time than a quick surgery you can recover at home.
Sometimes several surgeries are performed in stages to correct the problem. This usually occurs in children with birth defects or other serious medical conditions. In these cases, the wait between surgeries can be months or even years apart. Wait times usually depend on the surgeon’s treatment plan.
make an informed choice
If you can choose when to have surgery, it’s best to follow a simple rule of thumb. Wait until you have fully recovered from your first surgery before considering a second surgery.
This means feeling 100% better or 100% better than before the first surgery. If that doesn’t make sense given your situation, wait until you feel as good as possible. You should not feel fatigued or sore from the procedure. Your incision should heal completely, and you should be able to resume your daily activities without difficulty.
This does not necessarily mean that you will fully recover. Some major surgeries can require up to a year of recovery. Instead, you should be in a normal state and can recover from the second surgery in the usual time.
Your surgeon will help you decide by providing details about your expected recovery time. You will also discuss what might be best for you as an individual.
mean time to recovery
These are the average recovery times for various procedures:
- Total knee or hip replacement: 3 to 12 months
- Lumbar fusion: 3 to 6 months
- Intranasal brain surgery, brain surgery through the nose: 3 to 4 months
- Coronary artery bypass grafting: 6 to 12 weeks
- Kidney transplant: 6 to 8 weeks
- Open Heart Surgery: 6 to 8 weeks
- Thyroidectomy: 3 to 8 weeks
- Cesarean section: 6 weeks
- Coronary angioplasty: 1 to 2 weeks
- Cholecystectomy: 4 to 6 weeks
- Hysterectomy: 4 to 6 weeks
- Appendectomy: 1 to 4 weeks
- Modified mastectomy: 2 to 3 weeks
- Cataract extraction: 2 weeks
- Vasectomy: 2 to 7 days
Wait times between surgeries vary by situation. Emergency surgery may need to be done together. However, most elective surgeries should be spaced out to give you time to recover.
If you need two different surgeries, the one to correct the most serious problem will be done first. The second should be done after you have resumed your normal daily activities.
Different surgeries have different recovery times. Work with your surgeon to decide how much time you need between one procedure and the other.
Trying to do two surgeries in a short amount of time is usually not a good idea for reasons other than medical. Discuss this with your surgeon first. It is important to know the safe waiting period between surgeries.
Your surgeon may agree that you can perform two minor surgeries that are relatively close together. However, in some cases, your surgeon may advise against this. Try to keep an open mind and seek a second opinion if needed.
Understand the risks of surgery