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The first 2 weeks after surgery

Pain control

Please begin taking your prescribed painkillers as soon as you get home from your operation.  Take them regularly for the first 4 days before weaning off them as your pain allows. Many patients receive a nerve block to minimise pain during and after their operation – this often begins to wear off overnight, so it is important that you have painkillers on board before going to bed. After some operations, Non-Steroidal-Anti-Inflammatory drugs (e.g. Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Indomethacin and Diclofenac), should be avoided.  If it’s relevant, this will have been made clear to you.

Wound Care

After keyhole surgery, ooze through the bandages is normal as the salt-water solution used to distend your joint during surgery leaks out.  We apply padded dressings to absorb this fluid. The padded dressings can be removed two days after your surgery, but leave your waterproof dressings on the skin for 10 days after surgery.  If the discharge doesn’t settle down, or there is frank bleeding, please contact us. You can shower from four days after keyhole surgery as long as your waterproof dressings are in place.  \

For open surgery, you will have a sticky dressing and may also have a pad.  If there is padding, this can normally be taken down at three days, but again, please leave the wound covered with the sticky dressing for 2 weeks. Open surgical wounds should be kept dry for two weeks. Sometimes we ask you to keep your bulky bandages on until two weeks.

It is rare to have a plaster cast after planned shoulder or elbow surgery, but common after surgery to fix a broken forearm or wrist. If you do require a cast, you will be taught how to care for it.

Stitches – sutures normally need either trimming or removal between 12 and 14 days after your operation.  We normally do this for you at your follow up visit.

Exercise and Recovery

Please begin your rehabilitation program as soon as possible.  This will hasten your recovery, reduce swelling and keep ligaments and cartilage in good condition.  If restrictions have been given to you (e.g. no outward rotation of your arm) they are to protect your reconstructed tissues, so please take note of them and follow the guidance.

Rest is important after surgery, as the body endures extra stress and needs to recover.  While it is important to get up and about as soon as possible, please make sure you get plenty of sleep and take at least a few days off work.

Smoking – Smoking significantly increases the risk of complications after surgery.  It also impairs healing and has been shown to delay the healing of broken bones by 50%.  If possible, refrain from smoking completely after your operation.  If that is not possible, E-cigarettes are less toxic than normal cigarettes, but any Nicotine is harmful to repairing tissues. 

Infection – The risk of infection is very low after keyhole surgery (much less than 1% risk) and there is approximately a 1 in 100 chance after open surgery.  You will be given antibiotics at the time of surgery where this is deemed appropriate. You will not normally require antibiotics post-operatively.  Please contact us if any of the following occur after surgery, as they may be signs of infection: Your pain is increasing beyond day four after surgery, rather than decreasing ; your pain is so severe that it cannot be controlled by pain-killers; you feel unwell or feverish or you notice increased swelling, redness or fluid leakage around the surgery site beyond three days after surgery