Shoulder Arthroscopy

Your operation was performed by arthroscopic methods. The interior of your shoulder joint was visualized using a small telescope, and the diagnosis was made. Appropriate surgery involving the removal or repair of damaged, torn, degenerative or abnormal tissue was performed using special micro-instruments.

Upon discharge, you will be given a prescription for pain medication that can be filled at either the hospital or a local pharmacy. The pain medication can be taken every 3 to 4 hours as needed. The medicine will help decrease the level of pain, but it is not meant to completely eliminate the pain. Some pain is expected. If you develop itching, skin rash, nausea or vomiting, please discontinue the medicine and call the office. Additionally, narcotics can cause constipation if used for an extended period of time. If this occurs, you should decrease the use of the prescribed medicine, and increase fluid, roughage and fruit intake in your diet. Please do not use aspirin unless you have OK’d it with your surgeon.

The use of ice decreases both swelling and pain. You may apply ice over the shoulder dressing for two to five days after surgery unless otherwise instructed. If you were given a Cryocuff, please wear it for at least 2 to 5 days as needed, unless other instructions were provided.

Your surgery was performed arthroscopically, and therefore you may notice pink fluid soaking your dressing for the first several hours after surgery. This is not unusual and should stop soon after you get home. Your incisions have been closed with suture or skin tape, covered with gauze pads and held in place with tape or a compressive wrap. Please remove the dressing in 24 hours, but leave the suture or skin tape intact—the skin tape will fall off on its own in 7-10 days. You may cover the incision sites with Bandaids and reapply the compressive wrap to aid in swelling reduction. Please note, if there is a lot of water on the bandage, you may change your dressing at home tonight.

The small incisions may be sore and you may develop bruising in the area of the surgery as well as down your arm and your chest over the next several days. This will go away, and no special care is needed.

It is safe to shower or bathe 72 hours after surgery. You may wash the incisions with regular soap and water, dry them, and cover them with new Bandaids. Try not to remove the skin tapes. You should not soak your shoulder under water for at least one week, and should avoid hot tubs or pools for two weeks.

You should rest, relax and make arrangements to have someone stay with you for at least 24 hours after discharge. Do not drive any vehicle or operate mechanical equipment for 24 hours following your surgery. Even though you feel normal, your reaction time may be affected by the medication you have received. Your arm was placed in a sling, or Cryocuff, in the operating room. You may remove the sling and use your arm as soon as you are comfortable (usually 1-2 days). Please use pain as your guide in resuming normal daily activities, returning to work and school, and driving a car. If a motion is painful, do not try to work through the pain. If an activity is not painful, go ahead and use your arm and shoulder as naturally as possible. If more extensive surgery was undertaken, special instructions will be provided.

Drink clear liquids (apple juice, ginger ale, broth, 7-Up, etc.). Progress to your regular diet as you feel able. Do not drink alcoholic beverages for at least 24 hours following your surgery.

If you develop a fever (temperature over 101°), unexpected or severe pain, redness, or swelling, please contact the office for consultation or examination. A low-grade fever is common after surgery. If your temperature is elevated, drink plenty of fluids and try regular Tylenol.

A post-operative visit with your surgeon, or assistant, will be made 1 to 3 days following surgery to check your wounds and discuss your case. Formal physical therapy should begin 3 to 5 days after surgery—this appointment may have been made at the time of your pre-operative visit. Probably the most important thing to remember about your shoulder surgery is that the post-operative rehabilitation is as important as the surgery itself. For this reason, your surgeon and therapists will monitor your rehab program closely, and if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to discuss the situation with either of them.

Emergency Calls:
If you have a problem of an emergency nature and are unable to reach your doctor, go to the Altru Hospital Emergency Room (phone: 701-780-5280); or your nearest hospital or emergency facility.

Contact Your Physician (Or His Alternate) If You Have Any Problems:

  • Fever greater than 101 degrees orally or if at all questionable.
  • Chills
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Separation of the incision
  • Excessive swelling or tenderness
  • Unusual drainage: pus-like drainage (white, yellow, or greenish in color); any excessive drainage
    from the area; foul odor from the incision or dressing.
  • Change in color around the area; excessive redness may indicate infection
  • Change in temperature around the area: unusual warmth
  • Increased pain in operative area