Recovery is a crucial component of every plastic surgery procedure. The fact is, most would-be patients have busy lives. They have careers, families and obligations that they need to get back to. Gaining a clear understanding of the exact parameters of their recovery is vital. Oddly, however, though recovery questions are some of the most common ones that plastic surgeons get asked, patients don’t always listen to the answers.
A quick search of the web will show that when a patient is unhappy with his or her plastic surgery experience, it is often the result of unrealistic recovery expectations. Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Jason Cooper of Jupiter, FL explains how important it is for patients to have a clear understanding of exactly what their recovery will entail. While each recovery really needs to be tailored to the patient and the procedure, he shares a general overview of what can be expected after you have a surgical procedure.
“The most common question that I am asked when patients are considering surgery is really about their recovery,” says Dr. Cooper. Patients want to know:
- When can I go back to work?
- When can I pick up my child?
- When can I exercise?
- How many post operative appointments am I going to have?
- When are my drains going to be removed?
- When are my stitches going to be removed?
- When can I drive?
- When am I going to feel like myself again?
All of these questions are valid and should be addressed by your surgeon or his staff either during your initial consultation or in a preoperative visit. Most plastic surgeons will also give you a post operative handout and/or have this information on their website.
Recovery Depends on the Individual & Procedure
Every patient is going to recover at his or her own rate. Patients have surgery at different ages and at different phases in their lives, everyone has different genes and is in different mental states. Some patients may be in better overall health or simply heal faster than another. The time it takes to recover will vary based on a patient’s individual recovery MO, as well as which procedure is performed.
Patients must understand that recovery from a breast augmentation is not the same as a recovery from a facelift. Some procedures only address surface skin and fat while others may involve disturbing muscle, which always will require a lengthy recovery. Though the procedure really dictates the specifics of the recovery, here are some broad guidelines to consider.
How Strenuous is Your Job?
Before going in to meet a surgeon to discuss the procedure, it’s a good idea for patients to ask themselves the following questions:
- How demanding is their job?
- Is their any heavy lifting involved?
- How much are they on their feet?
Generally, patients can expect to return to work in two weeks. However, if a patient has a very strenuous job that involves a lot of standing and/or heavy lifting, his or her recovery will take longer, probably anywhere from 4-6 weeks. If a patient’s job is simply sitting behind a desk or anything minimally active, he or she may be able to return to work in a week, sometimes less.
Recovery & Drains
In certain procedures, such as a tummy tuck, the surgeon will need to place drains at the incision sites to drain off excess fluid so that the tissues can heal properly. Though not really painful, they can be cumbersome. Wanting to know when they are going to be removed is one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to recovery. As stated, it’s really going to depend on how the patient heals. In general, Dr. Cooper removes drains in a facelift or neck lift patient within 24 hours. It is rare that a facelift or neck lift drain will stay in place beyond 2 days.
With a tummy tuck, a drain is going to stay in place for a minimum of 10 days. Sometimes when a patient has two drains, one might be removed at 5 days, but the remaining one will stay put for another 5-10 days. While not debilitating, it is a bother to many patients in day-to-day activities.
Recovery, Driving & Exercise
In order to get back to a daily routine, a patient needs to be able to drive. Assuming that the patient is not taking any narcotics to manage pain, most patients are back driving within a week at most.
Exercise is less precise. Usually, patients can return to light exercise within a week to 10 days. They can return to more strenuous exercise such as aerobics within 4-6 weeks. However, if a patient has had a tummy tuck or body contouring, he or she may need to avoid core exercise for longer. And with any upper body procedure such as a breast augmentation, the patient may need to avoid lifting weights for 6 weeks or more.
Give Recovery Appropriate Time
It’s important to “give the recovery the appropriate amount of time to achieve the best possible results” explains Dr. Cooper. A patient spends a lot of time, money, effort and emotion developing a surgical plan and actually having surgery. There’s no need to rush the recovery. You want to “provide an equal amount of time to your recovery as you do to your actual surgical plan,” says Cooper. And if you have any questions or concerns, contact your surgeon. Don’t rely on a website or assume that everything will be alright; it’s always better to be safe than sorry.