Scuba diving after surgery: When is it Safe?

By Julius
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Surgery team

Looking to go scuba diving after surgery and don’t know when it’s safe to do so?

We know returning to the water after undergoing surgery can be a big deal and you’re probably eager to dive in again as soon as possible.

However, the postoperative period can be delicate, and diving too soon can present serious health risks.

Let’s explore when it’s safe to return to the depths and what divers should consider during the recovery process.

When can I scuba dive after surgery?

It’s safe to dive after surgery once the surgical wounds have fully healed and any trapped gases have been eliminated from the body. Always seek clearance from a medical professional, preferably a dive medicine specialist, before returning to diving post-operatively, and be sure that you are able to use your scuba gear without complications.

As in so many cases, the answer is pretty much: It depends.

On the type of surgery, on your level of fitness, and the type of diving you want to do.

It’s obvious that a surgery on your broken finger will affect your ability to dive much less than a ruptured ear drum or abdominal surgery.

Here are some very general guidelines you can follow, but we want to stress it again: Please consult a medical professional first!

Minor Surgery1-3 weeks
Major Surgery2-6 months
Cosmetic Surgery2-8 months
Orthopedic Surgery4-8 months
Lung or Chest Surgery6-12 months
Recommended minimum waiting times after surgeries.

Minor Surgery

After minor surgeries like small skin lesions removal or minor dental procedures, a waiting period of 2-3 weeks is usually sufficient provided there are no complications or additional medications.

Of course, there might be cases where you are clear to go back in the water after just a few days. As DAN states, even in the absence of any anesthetic complications, a general anesthetic should prompt a delay of at least 24–48 hours before diving!

I know doctors who let their patients dive after 5-7 days after removing smaller things like cysts or similar.

Major Surgery

Surgeries that involve large incisions, internal alterations, or those on vital organs generally require a longer recovery period before diving. A waiting period of 6 to 8 weeks or more should be the absolute minimum, but 4-8 months is not uncommon, either.

Some examples:

C-sections: 3-5 months, but I know people who went diving again after 5 weeks!

Gall bladder surgery: 6-8 weeks can be enough, but at the very least all stitches need to be healed up.

Hernia surgery: 6-8 weeks at minimum.

Doctor holding medical examination sheet
Always get clearance by a medical professional before diving again!

Cosmetic Surgery

After procedures like breast augmentation, liposuction, or facelifts, a wait of 4-6 months is recommended, depending on the type of cosmetic surgery.

After a hair transplantation, for example, you should wait 8 weeks before diving again. On the other hand, with breast implants and the like, you want to wait at least 6-8 months!

Orthopedic Surgeries

Bone surgeries or joint replacements may require extensive waiting periods, often several months, to ensure complete healing and to avoid the risk of nitrogen bubbles accumulating around the implants.

Again, 4-12 months is normal here, which should also give you enough time to be able to carry your scuba gear again.

Lung and Chest Surgery

Lung and chest surgeries are often the most strenous and require especially long waiting times before diving again.

Residual air trapped can expand while ascending from a dive, risking a pneumothorax or arterial gas embolism.

In many cases it will take at least 6-12 months before you should consider light diving again. Always consult a pulmonary specialist after such procedures though!

Abdominal Surgery

Due to potential trapped gas in the body, waiting for a full recovery and getting clearance from a doctor is essential.

Again, it depends largely on the reason for the surgery but in many cases, 4-6 months is the minimum.

ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) Surgery

Pressure equalization is a fundamental skill in diving. After surgeries on the sinuses or ears, divers should consult with an ENT specialist and wait until full recovery.

In case of a ruptured ear drum, DAN recommend at least 4-12 months so that ear equalisation can be fully restored.

If you hurt your ears during a dive, check out our tips for better ear care for divers!

Risks of diving after surgery

Surgery can have various effects on the body, many of which can be exacerbated by diving:

  1. Decompression Sickness: Certain surgeries can introduce or trap air within the body, which can expand during ascent, leading to decompression sickness.
  2. Wound Healing: The underwater environment, including exposure to marine organisms, can compromise wound healing or introduce infections.
  3. Medications: Some post-operative medications may interact poorly with the effects of diving or depress a diver’s alertness and responsiveness.

Tips for a safe return

The first thing you should do before returning to diving is getting medical clearance.

Always seek clearance from your surgeon or a dive medicine specialist even if you feel great already. It is also a good idea to get a new diving medical.

Not only will it assure you and your dive buddy that you’re good to go, but serves as a proof to dive operators that you’re allowed to dive again.

Next up, stay fit! Keep your fitness levels up as much as the recovery process allows. Cardiovascular health is essential for safe diving and will also make carrying your scuba gear easier.

Check Your Gear: Ensure your diving equipment is in good condition, especially if it has been a while since your last dive. If you have been out for more than a year, a regulator servicing is a good idea.

If it has been a few years since your last dive, refresh your skills. Consider doing a refresher course or a check dive with a dive professional to practice.

On your first dives, it can help to make things as easy as possible for yourself. Let your dive buddy help you carry your equipment to the dive site, pick an easy dive spot with little to no current, or use an underwater scooter so that you don’t have to move as much.

Last but certainly not leas, listen to your body: If anything feels off or if there’s discomfort, postpone your dive. There is nothing underwater that makes it worth risking your health for it or worse.


Trust us, the next dive will come, even if you have to wait after a surgery.

Prioritize health and safety over the eagerness to dive, even if it’s tough.

In the meantime, read a good diving book, watch a diving movie, or refresh your diving knowledge to pass the time!

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About the author

Hey! I'm Julius, professional scuba instructor, diver, outdoor lover, entrepreneur and CEO and founder of Social Diving. I write about scuba diving (including tech, cave, sidemount, and freediving), travel, and love what I do. If you have any questions, send me a message. :-)

©2024 Social Diving. All rights reserved. The content presented here is the exclusive property of Social Diving and may not be copied or distributed, in whole or in part, without the express permission of Social Diving.

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