How Long Is Post Op Recovery From Surgery?

Medically Reviewed on 10/25/2021

Surgery post op recovery

Surgery is the treatment of deformities, diseases, or injuries by cutting or stitching tissue. Depending on the type of surgery you have, your post op recovery may be a few days to several months.
Surgery is the treatment of deformities, diseases, or injuries by cutting or stitching tissue. Depending on the type of surgery you have, your post op recovery may be a few days to several months.

After every surgery comes a period of recovery. Depending on the type of surgery you have, your post op recovery may be a few days to several months. 

Surgery is the treatment of deformities, diseases, or injuries by cutting or stitching tissue. It involves many different techniques and procedures. Surgical procedures include:

  • Transplants
  • Biopsies and other diagnostic surgeries
  • Removal of tissues like tumors
  • Implanting grafts
  • Elective surgeries such as cosmetic surgeries 

Experts consider post op recovery complete when you're able to return to normal activities. You also shouldn’t have any symptoms from your medical condition.

Post op recovery factors

How long your recovery will be depends on many factors, such as:

  • Your health before surgery
  • Your age
  • Success of rehabilitation
  • What your injuries were like
  • How much rest you get 

Type of surgery

Your postoperative recovery also depends on what type of surgery you had. 

Major surgery

If you have major surgery, one of your major body cavities will be opened. This can involve your abdomen, skull, or chest. These surgeries are usually done under general anesthesia, in which you are put to sleep.  Major surgery may put stress on your vital organs.

If you had open-heart surgery you may need to stay in the hospital for a few days or as much as several weeks if there are complications.

After heart surgery, it may take 4 to 6 weeks to start feeling better. Some people may return to work 6 to 12 weeks after surgery.

Minor surgery

Your major body cavities are not opened during minor surgery. Minor surgery can be done with local, regional, or general anesthesia. In most cases, you’ll be able to go home on the same day.

Keyhole surgery

Minimally invasive or keyhole surgeries use much smaller incisions than traditional surgery. This method reduces recovery time and blood loss.

For example, traditional open surgery to remove your gallbladder ( cholecystectomy)  means a 3-day hospital stay and at least 4 weeks before you can return to work. But a laparoscopic (keyhole) cholecystectomy can be an outpatient surgery. Most people can return to work in 1 to 2 weeks.

After your surgery

When your operation is over, you’ll be taken to a recovery room. Healthcare professionals will watch you closely for 1 to 2 hours while the anesthesia wears off.

Depending on the surgery you had and the type of anesthesia, you may be admitted to the hospital, the intensive care unit, or go home from the recovery room.

If you’re being sent home directly, your care team will make sure you are:

  • Breathing normally
  • Thinking clearly
  • Able to walk
  • Able to urinate
  • Able to drink fluids
  • Not in serious pain 

How to speed up your recovery

Before your surgery, you can prepare your body to help you recover faster. This involves lifestyle and physical preparations and is known as prehabilitation or prehab. 

Stop smoking

Research has shown that surgery post op problems occur more often in smokers than nonsmokers. Necrosis or the death of body tissue was four times more common in smokers than nonsmokers.

Reduce your stress 

A study found that doing relaxation exercises and guided imagery for 3 days before and 7 days after surgery helped people heal faster from surgeries.


If you’re in poor physical health, this can affect your recovery. Some research has shown that boosting your health in the weeks before your surgery may help with recovery. Talk to your doctor before you start a new exercise routine.

Check your medications 

Talk to your doctor about whether and when to stop taking medications like ibuprofen and aspirin. Let your doctor know what herbal or natural medicines, vitamins, and supplements you’re taking. Some natural medicines may cause extra bleeding.

Eat well 

Healing is a complicated process. A lack of proper nutrition may lead to delayed recovery and increased complications after your surgery. This is more common in older people.

In the weeks before your surgery, you should try to:

  • Eat protein-rich foods, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
  • Don’t skip meals
  • Add a protein drink if you can’t eat much 
  • Drink at least six to eight cups of fluid a day 

When to get help

Recovery from major surgery can be challenging both physically and mentally. If you’re struggling emotionally with your recovery, talk to your doctor or a therapist. A positive mindset can help your recovery.

Here are some ways that you can help beat the post op blues:

  • Know what to expect for recovery. This will help you manage your expectations. 
  • Celebrate your progress, no matter how small.
  • Don’t be afraid to get help from friends, family, or healthcare professionals.
  • Start exercising, but do only what your doctor recommends. 


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Medically Reviewed on 10/25/2021

American College of Surgeons: "Nutrition before Surgery."

American Heart Association: "Post Surgery Milestones: Managing Your Mood, Expectations and Goals."

Anaesthesia: "Postoperative recovery and outcomes – what are we measuring and for whom?"

The Archives of Surgery: "Wound Healing and Infection in Surgery: The Clinical Impact of Smoking and Smoking Cessation: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis."

Arthritis Foundation: "Pre-hab for Surgery."

BetterHealth Channel: "Surgery - recovery and rehabilitation."

Brain, Behavior, and Immunity: "A brief relaxation intervention reduces stress and improves surgical wound healing response: A randomised trial."

Clinical Medicine: "Prehabilitation."

Merck Manual: "Surgery."

MOJ Surgery: "Nutrition and the elderly surgical patients."

The Ochsner Journal: "Minimally Invasive Abdominal Surgery."

Saint Luke's: "After Open-Heart Surgery: In the Hospital."

The Society of Thoracic Surgeons: "WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER HEART SURGERY."

UCDavis Health: "Robotic-assisted surgery FAQs."

UW Medicine: "Medications to Avoid Before Surgery." ?