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Returning Home After Elbow Replacement Surgery

Wonder what happens when you return home after elbow surgery? Your surgeon will give you specific instructions, but here are a few things to consider as you prepare.

It's very important that you follow your surgeon's instructions when you return home after elbow replacement surgery. While individual rehabilitation recommendations may vary, here are some additional ideas to consider that may make life a little easier once home. Please discuss these with your surgeon before you’re discharged from the hospital.

  • You’ll likely be using your non-operative arm to get out of bed or up from a chair. This may feel strange at first, especially if your non-operative arm is your non-dominate arm. Practice doing this before surgery can be helpful too.
  • You may be advised not to pull anything to you, like pulling up pants and opening doors after surgery.
  • It’s important not to exceed the range of motion restrictions given by your doctor or physical therapist.
  • The amount of weight you can lift using your recovering arm will likely be limited. Your doctor may recommend against lifting anything heavier than a cup of coffee at first. Please consult with your orthopedic surgeon before you lift anything.
  • Sling use will vary depending upon your personal circumstances, but your doctor may request that you wear one. Patients may be advised to wear the sling in public initially to avoid incidents.
  • You may need to avoid many household chores, such as raking, sweeping, mopping, and running the vacuum cleaner using your operative arm. Your doctor will tell you when it is okay to do these activities.

A few general thoughts…

  • Remember that you may tire more easily than usual. You may want to plan a rest period of 30 to 60 minutes mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
  • Constipation is a common problem following surgery. This is usually due to limited activity and pain medications. Discuss your diet with your doctor. It may include fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as, plenty of water each day. You may also want to ask about medication such as stool softeners or laxatives.
  • Your doctor will likely give you one or more prescriptions. It’s important to follow your doctor's instructions concerning these medications.
  • Some swelling around the incision is typical. You'll find it more comfortable to wear loose clothing to avoid pressure on the incision. Button down and/or oversized clothing is often easier to manage. Ask your doctor about appropriate wound care.
  • Your doctor may recommend that you apply ice to your joint to help decrease pain. A two-pound bag of frozen peas or other small vegetables (wrapped in a dish towel or cloth) work surprisingly well as an ice pack. Make sure you follow your doctor's instructions about how long (and at what intervals) to use ice.
  • Your doctor will likely give you a list of exercises to do once you're home. It’s imporant to follow your doctor's instructions.
  • You may have activity restrictions after surgery. It may be useful to ask your doctor before surgery what these restrictions will be, so you can prepare for your recovery.
Are you taking control of your recovery?

 Know what you’ll need ahead of your joint replacement surgery.

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This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Timothy Codd.

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