Open Shoulder Surgery

General post-operative instructions for shoulder surgeries that require an incision (shoulder replacement, fracture repair, revision surgery, etc.)


  • Begin with clear liquids and light foods (jello, soup, etc.)

  • Progress to your normal diet if you are not nauseated.


Wound Care

  • Pink drainage/fluid from the arthroscopy portals (incisions) is common after surgery.  Fluid is used during surgery to distend the shoulder joint, and this fluid slowly leaks back out during the first 24-36 hours.  Do not become alarmed - reinforce the bandage as needed.  If the portals continue to drain after three days, please contact my office.

  • You may remove the operative dressing 3 days after your surgery.  Remove everything but the white tape strips directly on the skin.  These are “steri-strips” and should remain on.

  • After removing the dressing, apply Band-Aids over the wounds.  This is to keep dirt and debris out of the wound.  Change the Band-Aids daily until the wounds are completely dry.  When the wounds are dry, you do not need to use the Band-Aids any more.

  • Do not use bacitracin or any other ointments on the wounds.  Keep the wounds dry!

  • You may shower beginning 4 days after your surgery.  Cover the wounds with a watertight plastic wrap and secure it to your skin with tape.  Glad “Cling Wrap” or “Press’n Seal” works well.  Keep the incision(s) dry!

  • If the incisions are clean and dry 7 days after your surgery, you may shower with the wounds exposed to the water.  Gently pat the surgical area dry.

  • You may remove the sling to shower, but keep your operative arm across your belly.  You will likely need help removing your sling as you should not fire the muscles in your shoulder.  To clean under the arm, lean forward and let your arm hang.  You can also lean forward to help you get your sling back on without actively moving your shoulder.

  • Do not soak the shoulder in water.  You should not take a bath, go swimming, or go in the ocean until cleared by your surgeon.  These activities are usually allowed 2 weeks after suture removal.



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  • Pain is a natural reaction to the work that was done in your knee.  Pain is your body's way of kicking off the healing process.  It is normal and expected for every patient.

  • Many modalities are used to control pain:  ice, narcotic and anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, elevation, and time. 

  • Your pain will improve gradually and predictably.

  • You will be given a prescription for a narcotic (opioid) medication to help with pain relief (refer to our practice's Opioid Policy).

  • As your pain improves, decrease the amount of pain medication either by taking fewer tablets and/or increasing the time between doses).

  • Hold your pain medication if you experience oversedation (sleeping too much), slurred speech, slow breathing, or hallucinations.

  • Pain medication often causes constipation. It is important to drink adequate liquid daily and take a stool softener.

  • Do not drive or operate heavy machinery while taking your pain medication.

  • Combining pain medication with alcohol, benzodiazepines, and other medications may cause respiratory depression and increased altered mental status.

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