Arthroscopic Surgery of the Elbow

The following information is designed to answer some of the frequently asked questions regarding what to expect and what to do after arthroscopic surgery. These are general guidelines; if you have any questions or concerns, please give Dr. Wilson’s office a call at (334) 749-8303.

Dressing and Wound Care

During arthroscopic surgery, the joint is irrigated with water. There will be several small incisions closed with sutures. Your elbow will be wrapped with gauze and then covered with an ace bandage. Water may gradually leak through these incisions, saturating the bandage. This blood-tinged drainage may persist for 24–48 hours. If it has not significantly decreased by this time, please call our office.

Swelling in the forearm is usually due to constriction by the ace bandage. If it becomes too tight, the ace bandage should be loosened and the arm elevated above the level of your heart until the swelling decreases.

The gauze bandage may be removed two days after surgery. The incisions should be cleaned with hydrogen peroxide and then covered with small Band-Aids. As soon as the incisions are dry, you may leave them uncovered. Do not use ointments such as Neosporin on the incisions.

You may shower two days after surgery when the dressings are removed. The incisions should not be soaked (i.e., bathtub, hot tub, swimming pool, etc.). If the incisions show any signs of infection, please contact our office. Specifically, if there is increased redness, persistent drainage, if you have fever > 100.4 degrees, or if the pain does not progressively decrease, you should call the office.

Ice

During the first 48-72 hours, ice can be helpful to decrease pain and swelling. Ice bags/packs should never be applied directly to the skin. They should be wrapped in a towel and applied for 20 minutes at a time every one to two hours. If the skin becomes very cold or burns, discontinue the ice application immediately.

Movement and Activity

You may be provided with an arm sling, which may only be needed for comfort for a day or two. Gently moving your fingers, wrist and hand will help enhance the circulation in your arm. Elevation of your arm above the level of your heart can be very helpful in minimizing discomfort and swelling, especially in the first 48 hours following surgery.

Medications

You will be given a prescription for pain medicine. Please take the medications as directed on the bottle.  If you have any known drug allergies, check with the nurse prior to taking any medication. Please note that we are unable to call in prescriptions for narcotics after regular office hours. If you need a refill, call the office early in the day so the nurse can refill your prescription. This is especially important if the weekend is approaching. Some medications do have side effects. If year old have any difficulty with itching, nausea, or other side effects, discontinue the medication immediately and call our office. Pain medication often causes drowsiness and we advise that you do not drive, operate machinery, or make important decisions while taking medication.

Exercise and Physical Therapy

Physical therapy will usually begin shortly after your surgery depending on the procedure Dr. Wilson performed. The therapist will outline an exercise program specific to your type of surgery. The purpose of physical therapy is to facilitate regaining the function of your elbow. If you have any questions regarding your exercise program, please contact the physical therapist. If you are unaware of when or where your first therapy appointment is, please contact the office and speak with the nurse, who can help arrange it.

First Post-Operative Visit

Your first post-operative appointment will be made for you when you leave the hospital and is usually within 2 weeks of your surgery. The findings at surgery, long-term prognosis, and plans for rehabilitation will be discussed at this appointment. Please bring your arthroscopic pictures to this appointment so Dr. Wilson can review them with you.  If you are unsure about when this appointment will be, please contact the office.

Communications

If you are having any problems, contact us right away. Dr. Wilson or his nurse will be available during business hours for questions and The Orthopaedic Clinic has a surgeon on call 24 hours a day.

Remember, if your pain increases, check for signs of infection (redness, drainage, fever, etc.), decrease your activities, use ice, and take your pain medication as prescribed. If the pain persists, or if there are signs of infection, please call our office.

Thank you for choosing Dr. Wilson as your surgeon.  We look forward to getting you back to an active and pain-free life!