It is entirely natural that patients should have more than a few questions following hand, wrist or elbow surgery. Below we cover some of the most frequently asked queries we come across every day.
• When can my wound get wet in the shower? When can I swim in the pool?
A clean surgical wound can get wet when it is fully healed. Generally this occurs after the removal of sutures, between day 10-14. If the sutures are dissolvable, the suture material can take up to 6-8 weeks to completely dissolve however the wound can be wet from day 10-14 if fully closed. If you have a complex wound, are a smoker or have diabetes your wound may take longer to heal and your therapist can advise you further regarding timeframes appropriate to your case.
• How long will my swelling last?
Swelling after surgery can vary depending on many factors such as the extent of the initial injury, the type of surgery and the type of tissues or joints involved. Generally patients experience the most swelling in the first 2 weeks after surgery. This amount of swelling gradually subsides over the next few months. However in some cases we see a minimal amount of swelling last for up to 6-12 months. Your therapist can help by providing compression garments to reduce the swelling.
• Will I have full return of strength and movement?
Your therapist will be working with you to ensure you regain as close to full movement and strength as is possible following your surgery. We can help by providing a specific exercise program, stretches or even exercise splints or devices. However in some cases, when the initial injury was severe or multiple surgeries have occurred, return to full movement and strength is not always possible. If this is the case, your therapist and surgeon will discuss this with you and will work with you to regain the best outcome possible.
• When can I start using my hand / arm normally again?
Again, the answer to this question differs greatly based on the factors mentioned previously, such as the type of surgery and the tissues involved (i.e. bone surgery compared to tendon surgery). In most cases, there may be certain structures that require protection using a splint or a cast for a period of time. Your hand therapist will specify when light functional use of the hand is recommended.
For many hand and upper limb surgeries, normal unrestricted use can commence from 3 months after surgery, given there are no complications. However, after some surgeries complete rehabilitation can take up to 6-12 months. It is vital to be guided by your surgeon and therapist during your rehabilitation process.
Please be advised this article does not replace medical advice provided by your doctor or surgeon. Each case of surgery is highly individual and should be considered on a case by case basis. Please feel free to contact us here to make an appointment if you have any questions relating to your surgery.