Care After Shoulder Surgery

For any shoulder surgery to be successful, the after care immediate care after shoulder surgery is of utmost importance. Improper shoulder care after surgery can lead to impaired healing, recurrence of the problem, wound infections, pain, restricted movement and even implant failure in the case of a shoulder replacement procedure.

Aftercare starts on the operating table itself. As soon as the surgery is over, cold therapy in the form an ice pack should be used to decrease inflammation and promote recovery after arthroscopic procedures. Sometimes the shoulder is immobilized using a sling as any adverse movement can offset the gains derived from surgery.

The sling is only used when going into crowded areas when someone may accidentally bump into the shoulder, or if specially advised by the surgeon in cases of complex repair procedures. The operated shoulder should not be used to perform daily routine activities till at the relevant level of the exercise programme.

The patient is gradually encouraged to develop full range of movements, initially passive and then active range of movements.

The dressing is usually removed within the first week following arthroscopic surgery. Subsequently, sterile gauze dry dressings may be given as and when needed. But the “steri-strips” applied over the portal incisions are not removed. The patient is encouraged to take shower from the first postoperative day. The sutures are removed around 7 days’ time following surgery.

Sleeping is a problem immediately following surgery. The patient is advised to sleep facing up, with a pillow underneath the operated shoulder and elbow to protect the operated area and minimize pain. The patient should not sleep facing down or on the side of the operated shoulder.

Painkillers are recommended round the clock basis for at least a week following surgery, however I often recommend 2 weeks, depending upon the need of the patient. The patient is advised not to feel reserved about taking them.

The physical therapy regime should be adhered to strictly as per the patient’s orthopedic surgeon and physiotherapist. Similarly, the follow up schedule should be strictly followed. The patient should not attempt lifting heavy objects or weights in the immediate postoperative period. In fact, he can handle about a glass of water’s weight only during this period, that too only very infrequently and only when absolutely needed. He should refrain from handling toddlers and playing with them. The patient is not allowed to drive for at least two weeks.