Surgery is often the last resort for treating health conditions and diseases. Surgeons regularly perform many types of procedures each day, giving patients a chance to recover their quality of life, improve their health, and overcome adversity. However, many surgeries come with lengthy recovery periods during which you need to heal. Even seemingly minor surgeries, such as tonsil removal, come with the need to recover. Many factors can complicate recovery, too, slowing the healing process and leading to complications that must be dealt with as they occur.
What Is Post-Surgical Recovery?
Post-surgical recovery is nothing more than the period of time after surgery, during which you recover from the operation and heal. You may be more familiar with the term post-operative recovery, or post-operative care, although the recovery period usually exceeds the post-op care period, which is generally only a period of a few hours to a day or two during which you are kept under observation. The actual duration of your recovery period will hinge on several different factors, including:
- The type of procedure you had
- Inpatient or outpatient procedure
- Your age
- Complicating factors like diseases such as diabetes
- Other health factors that affect recovery and healing
- Your physical condition
- Your level of mobility
- Your ability to care for yourself
What Complications Can Arise During Post-Surgical Recovery?
Many complications can arise after your surgery, which is why recovery and proper observation are critically important. Even outpatient surgery can lead to negative outcomes. Some of the most common complications that can occur during post-surgical recovery include:
- Wound infection
- Poor wound healing
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Pulmonary embolism
- Urinary retention
- Adverse reaction to anesthesia
- Lung problems
What Sort of Duration Can I Expect After Surgery?
The duration of your recovery will hinge on the type of surgery you underwent. Outpatient surgery generally requires far less recovery time than inpatient surgery, and minimally invasive procedures require less recovery than more invasive surgeries. Other factors that will affect how long it takes you to recover include factors such as:
- Your age
- The concentration of stem cells in your tissues
- Conditions that slow healing, such as diabetes
- Your ability to participate in physical therapy (if necessary)
What Types of Surgeries Require Extensive Recovery?
Generally, invasive surgeries require the longest recovery periods, both under medical supervision, and after you have been discharged and sent home. Even something as seemingly simple as an appendectomy, if performed in an invasive manner (without endoscopic equipment), can require a week or more of downtime. The general rule is the more invasive – the larger the incision and the longer the procedure – the longer the recovery will take.
With that being said, some of the best examples of surgeries that require long recovery periods are open-heart surgery, complicated orthopedic surgeries, joint replacement surgeries, and the like. If you develop any of the complications mentioned previously, they will also extend the recovery period. Even a mild infection could cause serious problems and extend your recovery by days or even weeks in some cases.
What Post-Surgical Recovery Methods Are Used?
Once you are discharged after your surgery, you will need to follow your doctor’s directions regarding care, activity, wound cleaning, and more. Perhaps the single most important thing to do is to ensure that you are able to prevent infection at the surgery site. Wash your hands regularly, change the dressing, clean the wound, and use the appropriate medications.
It’s also important that you inspect the incision regularly. Do you notice any redness? Any signs of swelling? Is there drainage? If so, what color is the fluid? Are the staples or stitches still in place? You will need to check the incision several times per day and note anything out of the ordinary to your doctor.
At some point, you will need to slowly reintroduce physical activity to your day. In some cases, this may require physical therapy. In some cases, you may perform therapy on your own or with the help of a family member or friend. In other cases, you will need to work with a therapist to improve your strength, mobility, and do so safely. Generally, the longer your recovery is, and the more invasive the procedure you had was, the greater the chance that you will need to work with a physical therapist.
What Role Do Stem Cells Play in Post-Surgical Recovery?
Stem cells are the heart of your body’s regenerative system. As such, they are critical components to recovery after surgery. As noted, individuals with a low density of stem cells at the site of surgery will have a longer recovery time, so stem cell therapy that increases body-wide stem cell density may have a positive effect.
Stem cell therapy introduces fresh stem cells directly into the bloodstream. Once in the body, they migrate to the lungs, where they mature and multiply, before spreading throughout the body and transforming into whatever cell or tissue type is necessary for healing, regeneration, and repair.
In postsurgical recovery intravenous introduction of stem cells may be helpful but is less beneficial than direct application of stem cells in the area of surgical intervention for better healing and regeneration of tissues. Additional benefit of local administration of stem cells is their ability to promote healing with minimal or sometimes no scar formation.
Appropriately administered, stem cell therapy may be able to offer faster overall recovery, improved wound healing, a reduced chance of complications, decreased pain, and even less dependence on medication after a surgical procedure.
What’s the Difference Between Autologous and Allogeneic Stem Cells?
Not all types of stem cells are the same. Today, medical professionals use two types – autologous stem cells sourced from your own body, and allogeneic stem cells harvested from umbilical cord blood and tissue.
While both types of stem cells can speed healing, autologous stem cells are the less effective. This is because these cells are the same age as your body, are less energetic, and have lost much of their regenerative capacity. They also suffer from high levels of mutation and cellar damage.
Allogeneic stem cells, on the other hand, are young, fresh, energetic, and undamaged. They are also immune system naïve, so there is less chance of an autoimmune response.
Ultimately, stem cell therapy may offer faster healing, reduced pain, and a decreased chance of complications after surgery. However, no such treatments have yet been approved by the FDA, so any stem cell therapy should be considered experimental. Patients should also ensure that the physician they choose is experienced in using allogeneic stem cells rather than autologous stem cells.