Best Waiting Time Between Surgeries

How soon is too soon for another surgery?

There is no hard and fast rule about waiting times between surgeries. Ask 10 surgeons and you will probably get 10 different answers, especially when you are talking about elective surgical procedures. With an optional procedure, there is little reason to proceed very quickly. Recovering from one surgery before having another is simply better.

Serious illnesses or trauma that require multiple surgeries in a short period of time is an entirely different discussion. In these cases, the risk of frequent surgeries is understood but the risk of not proceeding may be much higher. In life-threatening situations, it is not unusual for a person to have several surgeries in the course of a few days, and some have been known to have dozens of surgeries in the course of a month. 

Weighing Benefits Against Harm

People who have a dozen or more surgeries within the span of a month are inherently tricky, mostly because they tend to be the sickest people in the hospital. They may be trauma patients who repeatedly return to surgery to have broken bones repaired or people who are burned and require multiple skin grafts to heal properly. For these sorts of individuals, waiting could cause more harm than good.

On the other hand, if waiting poses no potential harm to you as the patient, then rushing may cause more harm than good. Proceeding with two back-to-back surgeries within a short period of time can increase the risk of complications and significantly extend the time it takes to recover.

With that being said, there are sometimes practical reasons for squeezing two surgeries close together. Insurance coverage is one such example. Let's say that you are approaching the end of the year, and you've met your annual deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses. As such, you now have the means to pay for a surgery that you may not have previously had.

If you are rushing to squeeze in a second surgery because you've met your insurance deductible, work with your doctor to schedule the procedure (and hospitalization) as close to the end of the year as possible.

Even then, don't let your pocketbook override good common sense. If the second surgery is elective and places you at needless risk, you may not to risk it, especially if you are older or in less than ideal health.

Recommended Waiting Time

Surgeons vary on how long they want people to wait between procedures when waiting is an option.

Most doctors will recommend waiting six to 12 weeks between surgeries. Longer wait times are advised for surgeries involving significant blood loss, an extensive time under anesthesia, or the disruption or removal of major organs or tissues.

If multiple surgeries are required, the procedure that fixes the most severe problem is typically performed first. For example, if you need open heart surgery and a rhinoplasty to straighten your nose after 25 years of only being able to breathe through one nostril, the heart will be addressed first and the nose will wait another 12 weeks. Done in this order, a better functioning heart means a lower risk of anesthesia complications during the second surgery.

Open heart surgery is a good example of a procedure where a longer wait between surgeries is recommended. If you have a surgery that took seven hours to complete under general anesthesia, your recommended recovery time may be much longer than for your friend who had a quick surgery that allowed her to recover at home the same night.

In some cases, you may know that you need several surgeries, performed in stages, to correct a problem. This is often true of children with a birth defect or another significant problem. In these cases, the wait between surgeries may be many months or even years apart, depending upon the treatment plan the surgeon has decided upon.

Making an Informed Choice

If you have a choice regarding when to have your surgeries, a good rule of thumb is to wait until you feel fully recovered from your first surgery before considering your second procedure. That means you are feeling 100 percent as good or better than you did before surgery or as good as you can possibly expect to be.

That means you aren’t fatigued or in pain from the surgery, your incision has completely healed, and you are back to your daily activities without difficulty. It doesn't necessarily mean that you are fully recovered since some major surgeries may take up to a year of rehabilitation; rather, it suggests that you're a physical condition to recover from the second surgery in the usual period of time.

To help you with your decision, your surgeon will also want to provide you with details on expected recovery times from your first operation and discuss what might be most appropriate for you as an individual.

Average Recovery Times

  • Total knee or hip replacement: 3 to 12 months
  • Lumbar spinal fusion: 3 to 6 months
  • Endonasal (via the nose) brain surgery: 3 to 4 months
  • Coronary artery bypass: 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: 4 to 6 weeks
  • Gallbladder removal: 4 to 6 weeks
  • Hysterectomy: 4 to 6 weeks
  • Appendectomy: 1 to 4 weeks
  • Modified mastectomy: 2 to 3 weeks
  • Cataract removal: 2 weeks
  • Vasectomy: 2 to 7 days

A Word From Verywell

If you are trying to squeeze two surgeries into a very short period of time for a reason other than a medical one is typically a less than stellar idea. Discuss the issue with your surgeon, and see what a safe waiting period is between surgeries. They may agree with you that you can have two minor surgeries relatively close together or may advise against it.

Try to keep an open mind, and seek a second opinion if needed.

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