If you're considering elbow replacement surgery to relieve your joint pain or to increase mobility, you'll want to prepare ahead of time for your recovery period. You won't be able to use your arm for several weeks, and that can impact your life more than you might expect. If you live alone, you may need to arrange for home health care. Here's what you should know about recovering from elbow surgery.
Hospitalization Is Needed
An elbow replacement is a major surgery that requires a hospital stay of a few days. If you have other medical conditions or are older, your stay will probably be longer than if you are young and in good health. When you have this surgery, the orthopedic surgeon removes your elbow joint along with parts of your arm bones, ligaments, and tendons. Therefore, you can expect to have quite a bit of pain during the first few days after the operation.
When you wake up from surgery, there may be a drain in your arm, and your arm will be bandaged. Your arm may also be in a splint, and you'll probably be told to keep it elevated. The day after your surgery, you should be able to resume most activities that don't involve the use of your arm, such as eating and walking. A physical therapist or your orthopedic surgeon will teach you exercises that speed healing and reduce swelling.
Home Preparation Is Necessary
To help you understand your needs after surgery, you should try going through a normal day with your elbow held immobile by a sling. You'll appreciate how difficult it will be to bathe and clothe yourself, and do simple things such as cook. If you live alone, you should organize your home so things are within easy reach. You should also make your home safer since your risk of falling will increase if you can't balance or catch yourself with your arm.
Consider removing area rugs and other tripping hazards. Put nonslip mats in your tub and install grab bars to help you get out of the tub or off the toilet. You may need to hire a home health aide to assist you for a few weeks until you regain some use of your arm.
Medical Visits Are Required
You'll need to make regular visits to your doctor and the rehabilitation clinic during your recovery. Your orthopedic surgeon will want to monitor the healing of your arm, remove the stitches after several days, and watch for signs of infection. You'll need regular physical therapy sessions to help manage pain, improve mobility of your joint, and strengthen the muscles in your shoulder, arm, and wrist. If it will be difficult for you to manage these visits due to another medical condition you have, you will need to arrange for home visits or consider a stay in a rehabilitation facility for a few weeks until your recovery is well under way.
It may take as long as a year until your elbow is completely healed and normal function is restored. However, you should be able to resume most of your normal activities in about 12 weeks. Your doctor may advise you to permanently avoid things that put your elbow at risk, such as contact sports and heavy lifting. To find out more, contact someone like Omaha Orthopedic Clinic & Sports Medicine PC.