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September 28, 1957


JAMA. 1957;165(4):322-326. doi:10.1001/jama.1957.02980220006002

There is wide diversity of opinion among physicians concerning the duration of postsurgical convalescence in uncomplicated cases. The extent of the variation was indicated by the replies of 229 physicians to a questionnaire. Their current practice was indicated in regard to the duration of the convalescent period of otherwise healthy postsurgical patients. Thus, for the same hypothetical case, the recommended interval for return to "light work" after appendectomy varied from 5 to 30 days (average 14 days) and for heavy work from 7 to 60 days (average 28 days). After inguinal herniorrhaphy the recommended time to return to light work ranged from 7 to 84 days (average 24 days) and for heavy work ranged from 20 to 180 days (average 54 days). A wide range of opinion was also expressed for hemorrhoidectomy and cholecystectomy. These wide disparities of opinion were manifested in each of the four groups of physicians. Surgeons tended to recommend earlier return to work than industrial physicians and general practitioners, but each group showed a wide range of opinion. This wide diversity indicates a lack of adequate criteria for determining the duration of convalescence. Recent experience of the Air Force and others indicates that it is safe to return the individual to full activity after a considerably shorter period of postsurgical convalescence than is the current practice of the majority of physicians as judged by insurance statistics and this opinion survey.