Before coming home from hospital make sure you’re clear about:
- how to care for your incisions
- your recommended level of activity
- driving (don’t forget to also check with your car insurance company in case they have any restrictions following an operation)
- symptoms for which you should seek further medical attention
- any changes to your regular medication
- what kind of exercise you can do
- how to manage pain
- how to manage constipation caused by painkillers
- when (and if) you need to have your stitches out.
Caring for your incision
It’s important to keep the dressing over your incisions clean and dry until they heal, which is generally about 14 days. If you’ve had sutures removed, wait for 1 to 2 days afterwards. You need to change the dressings every 3 to 4 days (or sooner if they get wet).
Putting ice packs on your shoulder can help to reduce swelling. Ice packs can be applied for 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day until the swelling has reduced.
Wearing a sling
Depending on your surgery you may need to wear a sling after surgery, possibly for up to 4 to 6 weeks. You can remove it for your physiotherapy sessions, but keep it on during the day, as well as at night when you’re sleeping. Your surgeon will recommend the best sling for you.
Depending on the type of wound closure used, you may or may not need to have the stitches taken out.
Eating and writing
Ask your surgeon or physiotherapist for advice on how to go about eating, drinking, writing and typing.
Limitations on your activities
For the first 6 weeks your activities will be limited, depending on your surgery. Your physiotherapist will give you a list of dos and don’ts. You’ll need to avoid heavy lifting and contact sports for longer, between 3 and 9 months. Your return to these activities should be gradual.
Smoking slows healing, so try and avoid it if you can.
You may experience constipation after surgery. This can be due to the side effects of opioid painkillers, a change in your usual diet or a reduction in your usual activity levels.
Returning to work
Follow your surgeon’s advice about how much time to take off work, particularly if your job is physically demanding. Most people need at least 2 weeks off work.
You shouldn’t drive or operate heavy machinery until your surgeon gives you the okay.
It’s important that you follow up with your surgeon after your surgery. You’ll need to schedule an appointment about 4 to 6 weeks afterwards.
Watching out for problems
Call your surgeon if you experience:
- pain that suddenly gets worse
- discharge or excessive bleeding from your incision
- redness or changes in the skin around your wound
- pain and swelling in your calf
- unexplained or sudden shortness of breath
- severe headache, nausea or vomiting.