If you’ve made the important decision to have shoulder replacement surgery, you’ll want to be sure that you are fully prepared for your procedure and recovery. Based on your individual circumstances, your surgeon will provide detailed post-operative instructions. In the meantime, here is some general information on what you might expect:
After Your Procedure Is Completed
Immediately after your surgery, you’ll be moved to a recovery room and monitored until you wake up. At that point, you’ll be transferred to a regular hospital room, where you may stay overnight depending on the pace of your recovery. Your arm may feel numb for about 12-24 hours, which should help with pain relief. To improve your comfort as the effects of the anesthesia wear off, your shoulder will be iced and immobilized in a sling, which you will continue to wear for four to six weeks.
You’ll be given prescriptions for pain control, which you should take only if necessary. You’ll also be instructed to breathe deeply and cough frequently to prevent lung congestion.
The Importance of Physical Activity
Movement will play an essential role in your recovery. As soon as you are able, you’ll be instructed to frequently make a fist and hold it for five seconds. This small exercise will promote blood circulation and healing. On the day after your surgery, your surgeon or another medical professional will teach you specific exercises to help prevent stiffness, strengthen your muscles, and restore your range of motion. During your hospital stay, you may attend physical therapy once or twice per day. When you are discharged, you’ll be given an exercise plan to follow at home, along with instructions to follow up with a physical therapist.
Caring for Your Surgical Site
Before you leave the hospital, your incision will be bandaged, and you’ll be instructed how to change the dressing daily. To reduce your risk of infection, it will be important to keep your wound clean and dry. Contact your surgeon immediately if your incision swells, drains, reddens, becomes extremely painful, or if you develop a fever.
As your shoulder heals, you may experience some swelling and bruising in your arm and hand. To manage these normal effects, you may find it helpful to repeatedly make a fist and bend and straighten your elbow. You can use your arm to perform daily activities, such as eating, writing, and shaving, but do not use it to lift or reach out until your surgeon advises that it is okay to do so. Approximately six weeks after your shoulder replacement surgery, you should regain range of motion in your shoulder, at which point it may be safe for you to resume working and driving.
During the first year after your surgery, routine follow-up visits will be scheduled with your orthopedic surgeon at regular intervals, and you’ll be asked to return for annual visits thereafter so your surgeon can monitor the status and function of your shoulder joint implant.
If you have questions or would like to receive personalized advice from a board-certified orthopedic shoulder surgeon, contact the office of Peter D. Vizzi, MD, in Lafayette, LA, to request a consultation.