Articles: Browse Category

How long will my surgery take?

Dr John Kippen

Two surgeons doing exactly the same procedure will vary in their speed and therefore time taken to complete the surgery. 

Also, a surgeon will consider the time of operating only - the anesthetist’s time in surgery is longer. This is because the anesthetist checks over the patient’s medical history and records (blood tests, ECG etc) and examines the patient. They then have to bring the patient into the operating theatre, move them to the operating table, put the patient to sleep, and then prep with antiseptic and draping. Only then does the surgery start. At completion of the operation, excess antiseptic is cleaned, dressings and bandages may be applied, the patient is lightened or woken from anesthetic, and transferred to a bed and then taken from the operating theatre. 

As mentioned above, the whole anaesthetic procedure is completed before the patient is taken to a recovery area. Only when the patient is sufficiently awake and comfortable is the support person contacted or the patient taken to a ward.  This also adds a significant and variable amount of time to the overall estimated time.

Other variables include the number of sites to be operated on. Preparing two surgery sites takes longer than just one. This is especially true if the two sites are far away from each other. Operating on a nose and a leg requires two sterile fields to be prepared. Turning and moving, as is commonly required for liposuction procedures, also adds significantly to the time. 

Using special equipment also adds to the time. Microsurgery requires the surgical site to be prepared using normal vision or magnifying glasses. The surgical site for microsurgery is very small. This needs to be setup and prepared so everything can be completed within that field. The microscope is then brought in, set up, focused and special instruments are required for that stage of the procedure. At completion, the microscope is wheeled out and surgery completed as usual.

The health status of the patient also adds to the length of the procedure. A patient with a large cardiovascular unstable burn, for example, may need time within the procedure to be warmed, or blood transfused or specific supportive medications to be given. Again, this will add to the overall time required.

In general, the time taken is proportional to the complexity of the surgery or the number of procedures being performed. Complicated microsurgery or complex craniofacial surgery will take much longer, for example, however single skin cancers are quite quickly removed and repaired. 
Adding more lesions will add to the time. 

A perceived long time does not imply an issue with the surgery – it may be that that is simply the time required.

Dr Kippen is a practicing plastic, cosmetic and reconstructive surgeon and a member of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons. He is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. Dr Kippen consults from rooms in Mona Vale, Brookvale and Wahroonga. Phone 1300 547 736 or email

Sign-up for the latest local Deals, Promotions & Events