Shoulder Post-Operative Instructions

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

Dressing and Wound Care

During arthroscopic surgery, the joint is irrigated with water. There will typically be two to five small incisions covered with a sterile dressing. After surgery, water may gradually leak through these incisions, saturating the bandage. This blood tinged drainage may persist for 24–36 hours. If it has not significantly decreased by this time, please call our office.

Please note: If you had a biceps repair or an open shoulder stabilization procedure, you may have a longer incision (2–3 inches) along with the several small incisions. This larger incision does have a suture under the skin and glue over the top.  This glue will gradually flake off over a couple of weeks as the wound heals.

You may remove the dressing two days after surgery. The incisions may be cleaned daily with hydrogen peroxide then covered with band aids. Do not use ointments such as Neosporin on the incisions. As soon as the incisions are dry, you may leave them uncovered. You may shower two days after surgery after the dressings have been removed, but the incisions should not be soaked under water (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.


During the first 48-72 hours, ice can be helpful to decrease pain and swelling and is especially important during the first 24 hours. Ice bags/packs 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

An arm sling or brace will be provided and should be used until Dr. Wilson tells you it is ok to discontinue it.  Unless otherwise instructed, you will need to wear this brace at all times (day and night) for several weeks depending on your specific operation. You may take it off to shower, get dressed and for physical therapy. Please do not move your shoulder any more than you are instructed. If you have questions regarding how much you should be moving your arm, please call Dr. Wilson’s office for clarification. Remember, however, that it is very easy to “over-do” in the first few days after surgery and any increase in pain or swelling usually indicates that you need to decrease your activities.


You will be given a prescription for pain medication. 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 office hours. If you need a refill, please call the office early in the day so the nurse can call in your prescription. Some medications do have side effects. If you 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/Physical Therapy

Physical therapy usually begins within a few days to weeks after your surgery depending on the specific type of procedure Dr. Wilson performed. The therapist will outline an exercise program specific to your type of surgery. The purpose of physical therapy is to help regain the mobility and strength in your shoulder. If you have any questions regarding your exercise program, please contact the physical therapist. If you do not know when or where your first therapy is, please contact the nurse and she can help clarify what you need to be doing.

First Post-Operative Visit

Your first post-operative appointment will be made for you before you leave the hospital and will generally be within a week or two following 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 of when your follow up visit with Dr. Wilson is, please call the office and someone will help to get you scheduled.


If you are having any problems, contact us right away. Please call the office number, (334) 749-8303.  Dr. Wilson and his nurse are generally available during business hours. If it is after office hours the answering service will contact the doctor on call. 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, 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!