Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) said Wednesday he would return to campaigning "faster than you can blink" after outpatient surgery to repair a minor shoulder injury sidelines him for the rest of the week.

Entering the hospital, Kerry joked about the large contingent of reporters on hand and the outcome of the surgery, saying, "I feel great. I'm looking forward to getting it done. I'll see you in a few hours, I hope."

Kerry, 60, tore part of his right rotator cuff (search) in January when he wrenched the shoulder while bracing himself as his campaign bus came to an abrupt stop in Iowa. The operation, which was being performed by Dr. Bertram Zarins (search), chief of sports medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, requires general anesthesia and should take about 45 minutes, Zarins said.

"I'll be back faster than you can blink," the Massachusetts senator told the Building Trades Legislative Conference two hours before going in for surgery.

Zarins said this week that he will operate through a 11/2- to 2-inch incision in the front of the shoulder. Kerry was expected to go home Wednesday afternoon, with narcotic painkillers for a few days, as needed.

Kerry will wear a sling for a day or two before being allowed to use the arm carefully, Zarins said.

Kerry made the most of his time before surgery. He spoke by satellite to the Building Trades Legislative Conference in Washington, then held a round-table discussion with unemployed workers in Brighton, Mass.

Kerry criticized the Bush administration for allowing the federal government's emergency unemployment benefits program to expire on Wednesday. His campaign created an interactive map of the United States with state-by-state statistics meant to highlight job losses during the Bush administration.

Congress extended the unemployment benefit program twice, but Republican leaders say the economy is improving, jobs are being created and another extension is not necessary.

Kerry spent Monday and Tuesday in California, meeting with voters and raising campaign money, including at a star-studded affair in Beverly Hills attended by Meg Ryan, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Barbra Streisand and James Brolin, among others.

Kerry felt well enough for a recent weeklong skiing and snowboarding vacation in Idaho, but reported feeling pain after certain movements and chose to have the tendon surgically repaired, Zarins said.

Kerry interrupted his campaign schedule for surgery twice last year. He had a cancerous prostate removed in February 2003, followed a month later by minor outpatient surgery to remove a wart from an eyelid.