There is no hard and fast rule about waiting between surgeries. In life-threatening situations, a patient may actually have several surgeries in the course of a few days or a week. As a nurse, I have cared for patients who have had a dozen or more surgeries in one month. While this is not ideal, there are times when the ramifications of waiting could cause more harm than good. Imagine your doctor saying, “No, I can’t take out your inflamed appendix, you had gallbladder surgery 4 weeks ago.”
Surgeons vary on how long they want patients to wait between procedures, when waiting is an option. 6 to 12 weeks seems to be the most common recommendation. The longer wait times are typically recommended after major procedures that require extensive time under anesthesia, greater blood loss, and for patients who may not be in peak health at the time of the procedure.
For example, if you have a surgery that took 7 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 plan the surgeon has decided upon.
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% as good or better than you did before surgery. You aren’t fatigued or in pain from the surgery, your incision has completely healed, and you are back to your normal activities without difficulty. Once you are feeling like yourself again, or as much like yourself as is possible, then consider the second procedure.
Your surgeon, or surgeons, will also be able to provide their opinion on the matter, and will help you decide when waiting is the best course of action. They can review your entire situation, including your current and past medical and surgical history, and determine when the surgery will take place without increasing your surgical risk.
Cosmetic Surgery. The Mayo Foundation For Medical Education and Research. Accessed March, 2009. http://www.mayoclinic.org/cosmetic-surgery/points.html
How Long Do I Need To Wait Between Procedures. The Plastic Surgery Center. Accessed March, 2009. http://www.plasticsurgerypa.com/blog/index.cfm?CommentID=76