Optimizing Surgical Recovery

Depending on the procedure being performed, the surgical recovery period can vary widely. However, a person’s health before the operation and behaviors afterward can contribute to how quickly an individual heals. While each case is unique, a case can be made that being overweight as well as underweight can affect surgical recovery.

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Not just obesity

Most often, when health conversations center around weight, people automatically assume the topic is only focused on individuals that qualify as overweight or obese. However, evidence suggests that for surgical recovery, being underweight can be just as dangerous if not worse than carrying too much weight. Studies examining patient outcomes for various surgeries have consistently found that underweight people struggle with wound healing and developing infections.

Being overweight matters

On the other end of the spectrum, being obese could cause problems with anesthesia and ensuring that the correct dosage is used. People who are overweight might also experience breathing problems and longer times to regain consciousness. To optimize surgical recovery, consider the following tips to reduce pain and heal faster.

1. Focus on a better diet

Both underweight and overweight patients tend to have commonalities regarding poor diet and nutrition, a critical factor that can delay wound healing. Focus on eating protein-rich foods such as lean meats and getting plenty of nutrient-dense produce to help the body recover quicker. Although foods may need to be modified initially after surgery, speak with a physician or registered dietician (RD) to confirm what options can be incorporated and when.

2. Rest as needed

Being stuck at home or in bed can be boring, especially for people that are used to more active lifestyles. However, trying to get back to regular life too soon can lead to unintended setbacks. If a surgeon encourages rest for a set period after the procedure, follow those instructions, regardless of current weight. Usually, vigorous activities aren’t recommended for the first few weeks following most surgeries. Give the body time to heal before easing back into a routine.

3. Don’t resist rehab

Depending on the surgery performed, some people may need physical therapy (PT) as a part of the recovery process. Refusing to participate, or only half-heartedly doing so, won’t lead to stellar results. For individuals engaging in surgeries impacting mobility, completing the suggested rehabilitation program is critical to returning to normal life. People who are overweight and underweight can work with the therapist to structure a manageable PT routine. If long-term therapy is required to recover fully, don’t try to take a shortcut.

4. Follow recovery guidelines

Ultimately, post-surgical guidelines will vary depending on the type of procedure that’s performed. As a general rule, directives such as avoiding lifting too much weight, refraining from driving, and waiting to return to exercise shouldn’t be viewed as optional to follow. The guidelines are given to ensure that a person recovers according to the expected timeline with minimal risk of complications. If a patient is not at an optimal weight going into the procedure, following such post-op instructions is even more important for optimal recovery.

Accountability matters

Picking a capable and qualified surgeon is critical to better patient outcomes for any individual undergoing surgery. However, personal responsibility is also important. People concerned about weight should talk to the physician before the surgery to craft a post-op recovery plan that factors in any extra pounds or lack of body weight. With the right approach, a smooth recovery is possible regardless of the number on the scale.