Upper Extremity Surgery
The day before surgery (or on Friday for Monday surgery), a nurse will phone you at home or work. She will let you know when to arrive at the hospital for surgery and where to go the morning of surgery. If you do not hear from us by 2:00 pm, please call (608) 263-8804.
If you are scheduled for First Day Surgery, you may call (608) 265-8857 for instructions after 10:00 am on _______________________________________.
If you have a cold, fever or other illness the day before surgery, please call your surgeon between 8:00 am and 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday. If you need to reach us after hours or on the weekend, please call the paging operator at (608) 262-0486 and ask to speak with the anesthesiology resident on call. Give the operator your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back.
Managing Your Pain & Prevent Swelling
Keeping your hand and arm above the level of your heart will prevent, or greatly decrease, both pain and swelling. Elevation is most important during the first few days. Some patients have swelling and/or pain longer than others. You should continue to raise your arm as long as you need to.
Before you go home, you will be given a sling. The sling may help you to raise your arm while walking. It is important to use the sling correctly. Your hand should rest up high at heart level, your elbow should rest low at waist level. Your wrist and hand should be fully supported inside the sling. If you can maintain elevation without a sling, you don't need to use it.
When you are sitting or lying down, keep your arm above your heart using 2-3 pillows.
Your doctor will prescribe pain pills for you. The medicine may upset your stomach. Eating something first may help. Another choice is to take only half of the pill, or use Extra Strength Tylenol or ibuprofen. Do not take aspirin for one week.
Taking Care of Your Dressing
Leave your first dressing in place until your clinic visit. If you are concerned that it is too tight, first try a few hours of strict elevation. If it still seems that "it's just not right", please call the clinic. We will ask you to come in and have it checked.
Keep your dressing and wound dry. If you should get the dressing or wound wet, you will need to come in the same day (if you can) and have it changed. Leaving a wet dressing on can lead to wound breakdown and infection. If your doctor allows you to shower, cover all of the dressing with a plastic bag and tape the ends so no water can get onto the dressing.
- Checking Fingers - look at your fingers twice a day. If you notice increased swelling, numbness, tingling, change in color or temperature, call your doctor. Feel your fingertips every 4-6 hours the first couple of days for warmth and look at their color. The fingers should feel warm and the color should be your normal skin color.
- Taking your Temperature - Do daily for a week. Call your doctor if your temperature is greater than 100.5° F (38.1° C).
Activity after Surgery
- The first couple of days resume your normal routines slowly.
- Rest your arm or hand to promote healing. Only do light activities that involve using your fingers and thumb.
- Avoid heavy lifting while you have a dressing or cast. Your doctor will let you know if you need to avoid certain movements.
- Your driving skills may be affected while your arm is immobilized. You will have decreased coordination. Also, your reaction time will be decreased while you are taking narcotic pain pills. Do not drink alcohol or drive while taking these pain pills.
- Ask your doctor when you can return to work.
When to Call the Doctor
- Excessive swelling
- Increased numbness
- Cool fingertips
- A color change in your hand or fingers
- Signs of infection in the incision
- Warmth and/or redness
- Cloudy, pus-like drainage
- Excessive swelling
- Fever - temperature above 100.5°F (38.1°C) for two readings taken 4 hours apart
- Your splint is too tight, too loose, or broken
Follow-up Clinic Visits
Your doctor may place a small drain in your incision at the time of surgery. If so, you may need to come in early the next morning to have it removed. Before you go home on the day of surgery, you will be given a time to have the drain removed and told where to meet your doctor.
If you would prefer to stay in Madison, the Housing Accommodations Office at(608) 263-0315 can provide you with a list of nearby motels and arrange for your stay at a discount rate. Some of the motels provide shuttle service.
You will also have a clinic visit in 7 to 10 days. We will arrange the date and time for you. The purpose of this visit is to remove sutures and discuss your progress with your doctor.
Important Phone Numbers
If for any reason you feel you need to be seen before your scheduled visit, please call the clinic between 8:00 am and 4:30 pm to discuss your concerns. We will talk with you about whether it would be best to have you come in sooner.
Orthopedic Clinic Reception Desk 608-263-7540
After Hours, Nights and Weekends, please call (608) 262-0486. This will give you the paging operator. Ask for the orthopedic resident on call. Give the operator your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, please call 1-800-323-8942.
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #5426.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 04/06/2010
Copyright © 04/06/2010 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5076
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