Before coming home from hospital make sure you’re clear about:
- how to care for your incisions
- your 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 before getting the area wet. You need to change the dressings every 3 to 4 days (or sooner if they do get wet).
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.
Placing ice packs on your shoulder can help to reduce stiffness and swelling. Ice packs can be applied for 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day until the swelling has reduced.
Depending on the type of wound closure used, you may or may not need to have the stitches taken out.
Limitations on your activities
For the first 6 weeks your activities will be limited, depending on your surgery. You’ll most likely have pain, stiffness and bruising. Your physiotherapist will give you a list of dos and don’ts. You’ll need to avoid heavy lifting and contact sports for 3 to 9 months. Your return to these activities should be gradual.
Smoking slows your healing, so try and avoid it while you’re recovering 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 after surgery.
You shouldn’t drive or operate heavy machinery until your surgeon gives you the OK.
It’s important that you follow-up with your surgeon after the surgery. You’ll need to schedule an appointment about 4 to 6 weeks after your surgery.
Watching out for problems
You should 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.