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Overview of Recovery

The recovery from parotid surgery takes time and requires patience. It is important that patients set realistic expectations for their recovery, so they do not become frustrated when the recovery process takes longer than they anticipated.

It is also important that family members know and understand that this recovery period may last for quite some time. It can be frustrating for patients because they may look normal on the outside, which then causes people to believe that they are fully healed, when that is not the case.

What is the recovery time?

The recovery time for each patient will vary depending on the extent of that patient's operation and previous health condition. Patients are generally told by surgeons that their recovery period will be between 7 to 10 days.

At Parotid Patient Project, we believe that time frame is unrealistic and is a result of a disconnect between a surgeon’s definition of recovery versus a patient’s definition of recovery.

Surgeons often define recovery as the time frame in which a patient is no longer at risk for infection, which is generally the 7 to 10 day time frame.

A patient defines recovery as the point where they feel normal again, and that takes much longer than 7 to 10 days.

When will potential surgical complications develop?

Any problems or complications that a patient might have generally develop within one to two weeks after surgery. It is important that patients follow all of the post-operative instructions that they receive from their surgeon, and that they do not expect to recover too quickly.

Patients should be familiar with the difference between normal site effects, and side effects that may require medical attention. The healing process for patients will vary and will depend on the health condition of the patient prior to surgery, and the extent of their surgery and treatment.

What is a typical recovery time frame?

It is not unusual for it to take one year or longer for patients to feel normal again, and there may be a “new normal” for patients after this surgery. It may also take one year or longer for the patient to regain full sensation to their face and ear, and some people may never regain full sensation to those areas.

The nerves are very slow to heal, and it will take time for them to heal and regenerate after this surgery. The length of time that it takes will vary for each patient depending on how much the nerves had to be moved, stretched, or manipulated during surgery.

For more information about recovery from surgery, including a list of practical tips, refer to the other tabs in this section.

It can be very helpful for patients to connect with fellow parotid patients who understand the concerns and frustrations that patients might feel during the recovery process.

Connect with other patients through our patient forum.

For more information about the recovery from surgery, click here to watch Videos 5 and 9 in the Mayo Clinic Parotid Tumor Guide series.

References

1. Mayo Clinic. (2018, October 8.) Mayo Clinic Parotid Tumor Guide: Recovery after Parotid Surgery [Video File]. Retrieved by https://youtu.be/HK_9SJgHwfQ

2. The content in this section was drafted in consultation with Eric J. Moore, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.