March 16, 2020
Dr. Anu Bajaj, M.D.

Recovery Time vs. Healing Time

When considering surgery, one of the most common questions people ask me is, “How long will it take me to recover?” This question can be very different from the similar question, “How long will it take me to heal?” This difference occurs, because after any type of surgical procedure, our body is using its fuel stores to make collagen and break it down and to ‘heal’ those surgical sites. This time difference also means that the final results of your surgical procedure may not be fully apparent for several weeks or months.

 

When considering recovery time, I think of the time required to return to work, to be able to drive or to be able to return to your daily life. Recovery time does vary based on the surgical procedure and the individual patient. However, to put things into perspective, I’ve broken down some general recovery times for common surgeries in the charts below.

 

Breast surgery

Breast surgeries include anything from breast reductions, augmentations, breast lifts, and other procedures. We take the time to have several pre- and post-procedure appointments to guide you through the entire recovery process.

Breast surgery recovery timeline

Liposuction

After liposuction, I will give you a post-surgical compression garment to wear for 4-6 weeks. You’ll also be given aftercare instructions for a smooth recovery. It’s important to follow these instructions and attend any follow-up appointments that are scheduled at our Oklahoma City plastic surgery office.

Liposuction recovery timeline

 

Abdominoplasty

An abdominoplasty, commonly known as a tummy tuck, is a procedure that is designed to remove the excess skin and fat between your belly button and pubic bone that you can pinch. You will also need to have someone stay with you and help you with the first one or two nights. You should make sure you take enough time off from work to ensure ample resting time.

tummy tuck recovery timeline

 

Facial Surgery

Facial procedures include face lift, brow lift, and blepharoplasty. These surgical procedures can enhance your appearance by rejuvenating or shaping certain features like the chin, jaw, lips or nose.

facial surgery recovery timeline

Recovery Time vs Healing Time

Healing time is a little different from recovery time and is not necessarily the same – this difference can be very confusing for most of us. Healing time represents the time that it takes for the bruising and swelling to resolve, for the tissues to ‘settle’ and soften, and also for the scars to fade. And once again, the time required for these changes to occur in your body will vary based on the procedure and the individual.

 

For many individuals, they may find that they tire more easily after a major surgical procedure – this is completely normal for the first few weeks because your body is using its energy stores to heal. Similarly, it is normal to have bruising and swelling after surgery. I usually will tell patients that they will see a big decrease in bruising and swelling (about 60-70%) during the first 2-3 weeks, another decrease during the next 2-3 months, and subtler changes for 6 months to one year – these subtle changes may affect the way in which your clothes drape and feel on your body.

 

Other components of the healing process include little ‘knots’, irregularities along the incisions or in areas of liposuction, or dimples along suture lines. These ‘knots’ or firm areas represent the scar tissue that can form and can take 3-6 months to soften. Typically, I will have my patients begin massaging these areas 3 weeks after surgery to help the process.

 

Some of us may have heard of the ‘settling’ that occurs after surgery. This term most commonly refers to the breasts – after the swelling from surgery has resolved and the skin has softened, breasts typically start to assume a more natural, rounder, and softer shape. However, it can also refer to other parts of the body – for example the time when the skin puckering or irregularities resolve after a face or neck lift. Settling can start to be seen at about four weeks after surgery but is a process that will continue for up to several months.

 

Overall, it is important to understand that as humans we want and expect instant gratification. However, our bodies are very complex and will heal after surgery at a very different pace. These guidelines are here to help you plan and prepare for your surgical procedure.

 

As you approach your surgery and have questions regarding your recovery and healing, please call us and talk to us at Bajaj Plastic Surgery.