Post Surgery Information

Information Following Surgery

You will wake up in the recovery room where a nurse will check on you until you are fully awake. Once you are safe, awake and comfortable you will be moved to the ward. You may eat and drink when you feel able. I will be around to check on you later in the day and explain the operation findings and procedure.

Going home or overnight stay?

Most shoulder and elbow operations are performed as a day case. However, you may have to stay in overnight particularly if surgery is performed later in the day. You may go home once you are comfortable, have had something to eat and drink and the medical and nursing staff are happy with your condition. If you do go home the same day then it is important that you have someone to stay with you overnight.


If you have had a shoulder operation you will usually have a sling to wear. You will be advised as to how long to use the sling depending on the operation you have had. It is important to take your arm out of the sling several times a day so that your elbow does not stiffen. The sling should be worn during the daytime and possibly at night.


If you have had shoulder arthroscopy, you will have a large absorbent dressing over the shoulder, which is removed 48 hours after surgery. The dressings underneath should not be changed at all unless they become wet. To minimise the risk of infection, the incisions and dressings should be kept dry for 2 weeks. There will be no sutures, only small sticking paper strips over the wounds. These can be peeled off when the dressings are removed at your follow-up.

If you have had open surgery (like a shoulder replacement). There will be a long adhesive dressing over the wound. To minimise the risk of infection this should be left in place for 2 weeks. Removal of the dressing usually coincides with the out patient clinic appointment. Again there will be no sutures to remove as the sutures this time are under the skin and will absorb.


A follow up appointment will be made for approximately two weeks after your operation to review your wound, explain the surgery again and advise you about further recovery. This is a good opportunity to ask any questions you may have about your surgery. You will normally be seen in clinic again at about 3-4 months after surgery to check on your progress.


Between the follow up clinic appointments It is essential to have physiotherapy. This is to encourage upper limb movement, help with pain management and rehabilitate the muscles back to normal. Currently physiotherapy is delivered by a mix of face to face, video sessions and telephone check ups.


You may begin driving when you are free from the sling and feel able to handle a steering wheel comfortably with both arms. This does say from procedure to procedure, if you are unsure then please discuss this in the follow up clinic.

Return to work

Time of will depend both on the nature of your work and the type of operation you have undergone. For most individuals with an office-based job, you may return to work even in a sling by approximately two weeks (as long as you don’t drive to the office). Employment requiring heavy lifting should be avoided for at least six weeks, but may need to be avoided for several months or more depending on the operation required. This will be discussed in clinic at the time your surgery is being discussed. 


This can be uncomfortable for a while and you should lie on your back or on the opposite side. If you are lying on your back, place a pillow behind the operated arm for support. Sleeping should become easier as your shoulder settles in the weeks after the surgery. The sling can be worn at nighttime if you feel this helps but is not compulsory.


Following your surgery, it is easiest to wear loose fitting and front opening clothes. Putting the operated arm in your clothes first will be best. Try and avoid shoe-wear with laces and opt for slip-on or Velcro fastenings.


After your surgery, it is important to keep the wounds dry. The dressings used are typically splash proof but not waterproof. If you have a bath, keep the wound above the water and remember that you will not be able to use your operated arm to help you get out. It may be easier therefore to shower but try to keep the operated shoulder out of the spray as much as possible. To wash and dry the under arm area, bend at the waist and let the arm gently hang.

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