Recovering from Surgery
-Win Pound, M.D.
Patient: Is this gonna hurt?
Me: No, I promise I won't feel a thing, but thanks for asking.
There are two aspects to recovering from surgery. The first is the
level of discomfort the patient will experience. The second is when
the patient can resume normal activities. Since the second aspect is
the easiest to answer, I will address that one first.
Every doctor has his/her own protocol for resuming activities
following surgery. In my practice, I allow patients to resume light
activities as soon as they feel up to it, but nothing strenuous for
three weeks following surgery. This is my protocol for every surgery
that I do. There is a remodeling process going on in the operated
tissues that can last for a year or longer. At three weeks, however,
the tissue has gained about sixty to eighty percent of its normal
strength and, in my opinion, that is the magic number when patients
can start to push the envelope and resume more strenuous activity.
Still, my philosophy is not to push the recovery too fast. Listen to
your body. If you are doing something that hurts, don't do it!
Patients are always concerned about how much a procedure will hurt.
Obviously, it will hurt some – no pain, no gain, right? Still,
everyone seems to be different in the amount of discomfort that they
experience. I have been in practice for over twenty-five years and I
have never figured out a rhyme or reason why some people don't need
so much as a Tylenol while others may be miserable for a week or
more. All I can really tell patients is to plan for the worst case
scenario and then be pleasantly surprised if it doesn't happen.
Fortunately, we have good medications for controlling pain. Also,
with my patients, I am always a phone call away if they have any
questions or problems. If one pain medication is not working, we can
switch to something else.
Surgery can be a scary experience. You are undergoing a procedure that will have lifelong consequences. With that in mind, you want to get it right. Choosing the right doctor for the procedure (and making sure that he/she is board-certified in the appropriate specialty by a recognized board) is important. A good doctor helps to educate the patient about what to expect from surgery. Knowing what is going to happen ahead of time helps to eliminate some of the fear of surgery.