Post-Surgery Instructions

What should I expect immediately after surgery?

The medications used to sedate you during your procedure can cause you to feel drowsy for several hours after surgery. That is why it is necessary for you to be have a friend or relative drive you home. You are not allowed to leave the hospital or surgery center unaccompanied.

Before you are discharged, you and those accompanying you will be given written and verbal instructions and, if needed, prescriptions for any medications you may need.

What can I do to help make my recovery as smooth as possible?

You can expected to receive directions that are specific to the procedure you received. The following general guidelines should also help:

Keep your hand elevated. Surgery produces swelling. Most of the pain and stiffness patients feel immediately after surgery, in fact, is due to internal pressure from swelling. To drain fluid from your hand and relieve this pressure, position your hand so it is higher than your elbow. For at least the first week after surgery, elevate your hand as much as possible - day and night. If surgery was performed on your elbow, try to keep it elevated as much as possible as well. You do not ordinarily need to wear a sling unless it helps you keep your hand or elbow elevated.

Watch for excess swelling. Swelling that makes a cast or bandage tight will cause pain — and more swelling. If you feel your cast or bandage is too tight, please contact Dr. Brown's office immediately. We would rather change it than for you to have a problem. 

Keep your bandage dry until you receive thorough wound care directions. Wounds heal best if they are kept clean and dry. After your initial post-operative dressing is changed, Dr. Brown or your therapist will instruct you on how to care for your wound. Until then, protect your bandage in a cast guard or a plastic bag when bathing. If your bandage gets wet on the inside, do not simply allow it to dry. We would rather change your cast or bandage than risk a problem with your wound.

Unless you are instructed otherwise, you may get your wound wet with clean running water (not well water) three days after surgery, presuming your initial dressing has been changed and you have been instructed in wound care.

Don't be unduly alarmed by bruising or bleeding. Some bruising or bleeding is common after surgery. Bandages often become stained with blood on the day of surgery. Bruising often worsens several days later. Neither is usually a source for concern unless accompanied by steady drainage, worsening pain or progressive swelling.

Keep moving. Following surgery, patients tend to avoid moving the parts of their hand or arm that were not operated upon. It is critical to keep these joints moving so they don't get stiff. To stay limber, we recommended completing the following exercises four times each every two hours throughout the day: 

  1. Within your bandage, try to make a strong fist. Then try to fully straighten your fingers. (Exception: If surgery was performed on one of your fingers or thumbs, don't move the digit operated upon unless you have been instructed to do so.)
  2. Fully bend and straighten your elbow (unless you have undergone elbow surgery).
  3. Raise your arms straight above your head as if you were trying to touch the ceiling. Then put bend your arms at the elbow and try to touch your shoulder blades with your thumbs. This exercise will help keep your shoulders from getting stiff.

Avoid smoking, if possible. Smoking interferes with healing and makes painful problems even more painful.

Watch for signs of infection. Infection should be suspected if you develop a fever or chills, or if redness, pain or swelling worsens over the course of the day or night, despite elevating the hand. If you have any concerns about infection, please contact Dr. Brown or his staff, day or night, at (314) 336.2555.