Discharge Instructions after Total Shoulder Arthroplasty:
Going Home from the Hospital

Shoulder Precautions

  • Use your sling as instructed.
  • When out of your sling, just let your arm hang loosely by your side and do not use it.
  • Do not put weight on the affected arm. Do not lean on it, and do not hold objects with that hand.
  • Do not externally rotate the shoulder beyond what is listed on your physical therapy form.

It is important to follow shoulder precautions to prevent shoulder dislocation, and to promote healing of the tissues that were cut during the surgery.

Incision

Your incision has been covered with a dry clean bandage. You may shower or sponge bathe, but arrange to keep the dressing as dry as possible. If the dressing becomes wet, change it so that moist bandage material is not on top of your incision.

Your sutures/staples will be removed 1-2 weeks after surgery. The day after suture removal you may shower or bath without protecting the incision.

If your incision becomes increasingly red, warm, or has persistent drainage, you may be developing an infection. You should be seen by a physician.

Sling

Keep this on at all times except when bathing, dressing or when doing exercises. It is particularly important to prevent your shoulder from rotating outward, and from extending. This may mean you need pillows behind your elbow when lying down or sitting. Your doctor will tell you how long the sling is needed.

Ice Pack

You may use an ice pack or machine as needed for pain control. Keep a layer of clothing between your skin and the device. You may stop icing your shoulder after two to three days, but feel free to continue to do so as needed. Many people find that cooling the shoulder helps to control the postoperative pain.

Rehabilitation

You should be focusing on passive motion only for the early phase of your rehabilitation. Actively using your shoulder musculature may jeopardize your repair. This means performing elbow/hand motion exercises and pendulum exercises.

You will be given a form outlining the therapy protocol for your shoulder. Please see our physical therapy page for more details.

Pain

Pain should start to subside approximately 48 hours after the operation. Using your pain medication on a schedule is usually preferable to using it only when your shoulder hurts. You may find that sleeping sitting up is helpful.

Pain is unpredictable and varies from one patient to another. Some patients may experience severe pain, while others have only minimal discomfort. It is important that your post-surgical pain is well controlled so that you will be able to tolerate normal, functional movement.

The following strategies may help you better mange your symptoms:

  • Slow, deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing
  • Shoulder and whole body relaxation
  • Stretches for the head/neck
  • Pain medications
  • Ice to entire shoulder girdle
  • Frequent changes in body position
  • Proper positioning for your shoulder
  • Take a short walk

Follow-up Appointment

Patients are usually seen in the office 1-2 weeks after discharge. Other arrangements may be made for those who have to travel longer distances. Call when you get home from the hospital to make an appointment.

Call the office number of your physician if you have concerns.

 
shouldersurgeon.com AC Joint Arthritis and Total Shoulder Replacement Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery
FAQs Fractures and Dislocations Frozen Shoulder Impingement Interactive Shoulder
Physical Therapy Rotator Cuff Tears Shoulder and Elbow Anatomy Shoulder Instability Terminology
shouldersurgeon.com shouldersurgeon.com shouldersurgeon.com
Seeing a Shoulder Specialist Our Authors Site Policy