Recovery after Hand Surgery
Many different surgeries are performed on hand with varying results risks of complications. The results of most common hand operations are good with rapid resolution of symptoms. The risks are minimal.
First talk to your surgeon about how long it will take to recover and what to expect during that time.
Following carpal tunnel surgery, your hand will be nearly back to normal in ten to fourteen days. After joint reconstructive surgery however, you may not be able to use your hand for over a month.
Your operation, it's risks and benefits will be discussed with you at the time when your name is entered in the waiting list and it will be repeated to you on admission for surgery, when you sign the consent form.
On return from the operating theatre your hand will be wrapped in a soft bandage (plaster cast in some instances). When you are discharged home, please make sure
- That your fingers are warm and pink at all times.
- That you have taken the painkillers prescribed which you might need. This is quite normal.
If your fingers are not warm and pink, or if the painkillers prescribed do not control pain, you should contact the hospital immediately. Minor degrees of swelling are expected after all hand operations.
At first your hand may throb whenever you hold it below your waist. Keep your hand elevated after surgery in the sling provided. Rest your hand on a pillow when sitting or lying. This is particularly important in the first 3 days after surgery. Ignoring this advice will result in increased swelling, throbbing pain and may cause bleeding from the fresh wound.
Following most hand operations it is advisable to start early active and passive exercise of all the fingers and the thumb. It helps the circulation and swelling. It also avoids joint stiffness and shortens the recovery period.
Following certain operations, a plaster cast or a splint is applied to prevent early movements. This is true of tendon repairs, fracture surgeries and joint replacement operations.
After your surgery, you may find it difficult to clean yourself when using the bathroom. Practice using the other hand prior to your surgery. Consider buying pre-moistened wipes to clean yourself. This will help avoid irritation
Put all routine medication in bottles with regular caps. Childproof caps will be too hard for you to open. It will be important to keep these bottles away from children
Prepare foods that do not require both hands to cut and eat. If you have elected to have both hands operated at the same time then you will require some help.
Even after minor surgery driving may not be advisable for at least two weeks. Ask your surgeon about when you can drive again after surgery. Remember someone should drive you from the hospital after your surgery even if you have had a local anaesthetic.
Some things to consider about your clothes:
- Wear clothes that you will be able to put on by yourself (wear pull-on shirts and avoid buttons, zips etc.)
- Avoid long sleeves if you will have a cast or a bulky dressing.
- Slip-on shoes will be easier to wear than ones that need to be laced.
- You may want to replace contact lenses with eyeglasses until your hand is able to manage your contacts.
Another possible problem may be your temporary inability to write clearly. If your dominant hand is to be operated on, you may want to write out important cheques before the surgery. If your writing hand will be affected for a long time, ask your bank if it wants a sample of your signature using your other hand.
Consider spending one whole day with your arm in a sling before your surgery. You may discover a number of small things in your home or work environment that could be altered to help you during your recovery.
First dressing can be reduced after 48 hours of surgery to a smaller dressing. The practice nurse at your doctor's surgery usually carries this out. You will at this stage be able to perform simple daily tasks. You must keep your dressing dry until stitches are removed at about the tenth day after surgery.
Date of your follow up visit will be given to you at discharge.
Contact the hospital if there are any worrying features.
The brochure gives you the general information about your hand operation. Specific instructions for specific operations will be given to you when necessary.