Best Waiting Time Between Surgeries

How Soon Is Too Soon?

There is no hard and fast rule about how long you should wait between surgeries. Ask 10 surgeons and you will probably get 10 different answers.

With elective surgeries in particular, there is little reason to rush. Elective surgeries correct problems that aren't life-threatening. It's always best to fully recover from one elective surgery before having another.

Surgeries done because of serious illnesses or trauma are different, however. Some patients need more than one surgery in a short period of time. In these cases, the risk 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 within a few days. Some have been known to have dozens in the course of a month.

This article discusses the timing of multiple surgeries and the benefits and risks of waiting. It also offers some tips on how to know when you're ready for your next surgery.

Surgeon operating patient on table at hospital
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Weighing Benefits Against Harm

People who have a dozen or more surgeries within the span of a month tend to be the sickest people in the hospital. They may be trauma patients who need repeated surgeries to repair broken bones. They may be burn patients who need multiple skin grafts. For these patients, waiting could cause more harm than good.

If waiting poses no potential problems, however, rushing the next surgery can do more harm than good. When you have two back-to-back surgeries within a short period of time, your risk of complications goes up significantly. It can also take much longer for you to recover.

There are some exceptions. There may be practical reasons for doing two surgeries close together. For example, let's say it's almost the end of the year. You've met your insurance policy's annual deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses. You may want to do both surgeries before January 1, when you'll have to pay more out of pocket.

If you're rushing to do a second surgery because you've met your insurance deductible, work with your healthcare provider. Try to schedule the procedure and hospitalization as close to the end of the year as you can.

Even then, don't let money get in the way of common sense. If the second surgery is elective and rushing might place you at needless risk, you may not want to risk it. This is especially true 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.

Most healthcare providers 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
  • The disruption or removal of major organs or tissues

If you need more than one surgery, the first will usually be the one that fixes the most severe problem. For example, you may need nose surgery to fix a breathing problem that is not life-threatening. You may also need open heart surgery. In this case, the heart surgery would be done first and the nose surgery would have to wait 12 weeks. A better functioning heart will lower the risk of anesthesia complications during the second surgery.

Open heart surgery is a good example of a procedure that should have longer wait times. Any surgery that takes many hours under general anesthesia is going to have a much longer recovery time than a quick surgery you can recover from at home.

Sometimes it takes several surgeries performed in stages to correct a problem. This is often the case with children who have a birth defect or other serious condition. In these cases, the wait between surgeries may be many months or even years apart. Wait times typically depend on what the surgeon's treatment plan is.

Making an Informed Choice

If you can choose when to have your surgeries, it's a good idea to follow a simple rule of thumb. Wait until you feel fully recovered from your first surgery before considering the second one.

This means feeling 100% as good or better than you did before the first surgery. If that's not reasonable given your condition, wait until you feel as good as you can possibly expect to feel. You shouldn't feel fatigued or in pain from the surgery. Your incision should be completely healed, and you should be back to doing your daily activities without difficulty.

This doesn't necessarily mean that you will be fully recovered. Some major surgeries may take up to a year of rehabilitation. Rather, you should be in the right condition to recover from the second surgery in the usual period of time.

Your surgeon will help you with your decision by providing details on expected recovery times. You'll also discuss what might be best for you as an individual.

Average Recovery Times

These are average recovery times for various procedures:

Summary

Waiting times between surgeries vary depending on the situation. Emergency surgeries may need to be done close together. Most elective surgeries, though, should be spaced out to give you time to recover.

If you need two different surgeries, the one that corrects the worst problem will be done first. The second one should be done after you are back to doing your normal daily activities.

Different surgeries have different recovery times. Work with your surgeon to decide how much time you will need between one procedure and another.

A Word From Verywell

Trying to squeeze two surgeries into a very short period of time for a reason other than a medical one is not usually a good idea. Discuss the issue with your surgeon first. It's important to know what the safe waiting period is between surgeries.

Your surgeon may agree that you can have two minor surgeries relatively close together. In some situations, though, your surgeon may advise against it. Try to keep an open mind, and seek a second opinion if needed.

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  1. Rohrich RJ, Ahmad J. Rhinoplasty. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2011;128(2):49e-73e. doi:10.1097/PRS.0b013e31821e7191