Shoulder Therapy

Shoulder Surgery FAQ’s

Questions about the Surgery

What types of anesthetics are used for shoulder surgeries? Is one kind better than others? How is the decision made as to which to use?

A general anesthetic is given to you before the surgery starts. This means that you will be asleep during the procedure.
An interscalene block (regional block) may be administered before the surgery as well. A local anesthetic (e.g. bupivcaine) is injected near the nerves as they exit from the neck region. This often leads to better pain control with less need for narcotic pain medications postoperatively.

What arrangements do you make for pain medication?

Dr. Koo will give you a prescription for pain medications to help with your pain.

How long will the Surgery take?

While this can vary, typically you are in the operating room from 1 to 1.5 hours. Then you are taken to the recovery area for about 1 to 2 hours before being discharged home. You will be given specific post-operative instructions at that time.

Questions after surgery

How will I find out what Dr. Koo did during surgery?

Dr. Koo will speak with your loved ones immediately following your surgery. It is very important that they are with you at the surgery center and stay in the waiting room during your surgery. If someone is not in the waiting room at the end of surgery, Dr. Koo will not be able to meet with them that day. We will be able to discuss your surgery at our office during your first post-operative appointment (typically 6 to 8 days later).

When can I return to work?

The answer depends upon the type of work that you perform. If you have a sedentary job you may return to work as soon as you are comfortable enough to do so. If the job requires strenuous physical activity you may need to wait several months. You should discuss your situation with Dr. Koo.

Can I do damage to the shoulder by doing any particular movements or doing too much?

Yes! A patient can ruin the results of a would-be successful surgery by not following the surgeon’s postoperative instructions. Overdoing it and underdoing it can both lead to poor results. For this reason, we recommend working with one of our partner physical therapy clinics for the best results.

Can I use my hand and feed myself and use a computer keyboard, etc.?

You will need to follow Dr. Koo’s postoperative instructions. While a lot of people worry about being able to eat normally and conduct computer work after rotator cuff surgery, most often, you will be able to feed yourself and use a computer keyboard and mouse safely. It is important to note while using your keyboard and mouse at work that you do not move your arm away from your body.

When can I drive a car?

You should not drive while under the influence of narcotic pain medications. Once off of pain medications, you will need to be out of the sling and be able to comfortably use and place both hands on the steering wheel in order to drive.

How much assistance will I need after the surgery?

Individuals vary in their ability to adapt to accomplish activities of daily living with one arm. It is recommended that you make arrangements to receive help from family or friends when you first go home from the surgery center.

How should I sleep after shoulder surgery?

Always be sure to continue wearing your sling while you sleep to prevent you from placing your arm in a painful position. Another tip is to prop a pillow under your arm with a pillow to prevent numbness, pain and ensure blood flow. To do this, place the pillow between the arm and your torso. Dr. Koo can give you further instructions on this after the surgery.

Does sleeping in a recliner help after surgery?

Many patients find it difficult to lie in a bed due to pain after shoulder surgery. Some patients have noticed that recliners provide a better sleeping experience compared to the bed.

When can I take a shower?

You may shower as soon as you are comfortable enough to do so. It is important to keep your wound dry during the 3 days after arthroscopic surgery (2 weeks after shoulder replacement). If you shower before this time, you will need to cover the wound before you take a shower. Tegaderm is a plastic dressing that seals off the wound area and prevents water from reaching it.

How long will it take to reach full recovery?

Much of your strength and range of motion will return within the first three months, but your shoulder will continue to improve over the first postoperative year.

Do I need to wear the sling?

You must keep your sling on every night for 6 weeks after surgery. You should also wear it when you are susceptible to falling or in situations where other people can run into your shoulder.

How to wear a sling after surgery

With proper sling use, your sling should be at your side with your forearm parallel with the ground and your elbow should be positioned all the way into the sling. A good rule of thumb is to make sure your upper arm remains directly to your side and is in line with the rest of your body. Lastly, be sure that your arm is not positioned too far in front of you or behind you, this should help with your pain levels.

What are things I should not do with my arm?

Never use your arm to push yourself up in bed or from a chair. The added weight on your shoulder may cause you to re-injure the joint. Also, do not attempt to raise your arm forward or to the side. Do not reach for things away from your body. If you keep your elbow by your side, you should be safe.

Schedule a Consultation in Seattle, WA

If you have any additional questions, or would like to schedule an appointment in the Seattle, WA area, contact Dr. Samuel Koo at (425) 823-4000.