The holiday season is certainly a busy time for plastic surgery. Many patients want to take advantage of their days off to minimize the time they miss from work or school. Couple this with a new deductible after the first of the year and surgery dates for November/December often fill up in August. But how much time to you need? Are you going to use all of your PTO? The answers might surprise you.
Naturally, not all operations require the same amount of time off. Some procedures are quite quick and you can be back at work within a week, while others might require a larger investment of time. I’ll go over a few popular operations and give you an idea of how much time off is required.
Liposuction is probably the single most common operation that we get questions about. Fortunately, it is also the easiest to answer. The more areas you have treated, then the more time you will need off work. The abdomen and flanks account for most of our liposuction, with the inner thighs and bra strap regions running in a close second. If you have a single area treated with liposuction then you can expect to be off of work for 3-4 days. I routinely have patients that request surgery on a Thursday with plans to return to work on Monday. By Monday the pain is essentially gone and the most common feeling is soreness.
Breast surgery accounts for the lion share of our work. Whether it is a reduction, lift, or augmentation, the time off of work is similar: 7-14 days. Most of my patients who are in high school who undergo a breast reduction return to school the week after surgery. A breast augmentation requires some significant muscle manipulation so the most common complaint is pressure or tightness across the chest. While it is possible to return to work a week after a breast augmentation, there are still some restrictions that have to be followed. Many times, a breast lift is performed with a simultaneous augmentation so the discomfort is extended for a day or two. I’ve seen ladies run carpool three days after surgery, so you don’t necessarily need to plan for a week in bed!
Abdominoplasties are the toughest operation to get over. It requires at least 2-3 weeks to recover to a point where a patient can comfortably go back to work. The reason why is that we tighten skin AND muscle during the operation so the discomfort comes from different levels. A mini-tummy tuck often is not nearly so bad because we simply tighten the skin and the muscles of the abdominal wall are left alone. The more the muscles are tightened the more uncomfortable the patient will be after surgery. Also we use our abdominal core muscles for just about everything from sneezing to sitting so, giving them “time off” after surgery is impossible.
Facial aesthetic surgery causes the least discomfort. Eyelids and face lifts may leave some unwanted bruising, but the true pain after surgery is very minimal. The main reason patients take time off of work is to allow the bruising and edema to resolve. For a patient who has their own business or works from home, the downtime is quite minimal.
Our efficiency in the operating room and the excellent level of anesthesia our patients receive both help minimize discomfort after surgery. We want to see our patients back up and productive as soon as possible because in this day and age, no one has time to sit at home. With the average time away from work being less than two weeks, you may have more options to schedule than you think.
Adrian R Smith MD