Frequently Asked Questions
After Surgery – After surgery, a member of our staff will meet/or speak with you and/or your family to discuss and provide specific discharge instructions, medications, and physical therapy.
What if I have swelling or bruising after surgery? – Both swelling and bruising are normal after surgery, and may extend past where the operation took place – into the arm and hand with shoulder surgery or knee surgery. Keeping the limb elevated and/or using ice are the best interventions for controlling swelling. If you should experience an acute increase in swelling, if swelling does not change or improve, or if the swelling is associated with increased pain the arm or calf, please contact our office immediately.
How often do I need to change my dressing? – Your surgical dressing should be maintained for three days following surgery, and you will need to take care to keep it intact and dry during that time. This may mean taking a sponge bath for several days or using a plastic cover over your arm or leg to keep the limb dry. After three days, you may remove all of your dressing beside the white adhesive bandages directly over the incisions – called Steri-Strips – unless instructed otherwise. You do not need to keep the incisions covered after the first three days, but may prefer to use a wrap or bandage, especially if you are in a busy public area or using a brace/sling.
What should my activity level be? – Activity level depends greatly on the type of surgery. Detailed instructions on activity, as well as a physical therapy prescription will be provided to you on the day of your surgery/or post op visit. Regardless of activity level, immediately post-operatively, you will likely want to rest and ice as much as possible. The most important thing to do is follow the instructions provided to you regarding activity.
When can I shower or bathe? – You will need to keep your surgical dressing clean and dry for three (3) days after surgery, and for that time may prefer a sponge bath. After you remove the surgical dressing, you may shower, as long as you keep the incision site mostly clean and dry. You may use a bandage to do so. You may not soak your incisions – such as in a bath, hot tub, or when swimming – until 4-5 weeks after surgery or until the incisions are well healed.
When can I drive? – For both upper and right lower extremity surgery, patients are typically not able to drive until they are both off narcotic pain medications and also are no longer utilizing a brace or sling.
Will I need a brace/sling? If so, how long will I need to use it? – Each case is different, for some surgeries, there is no sling/brace – or durable medical equipment (DME) – required. If you are required to use DME, you will be instructed on this matter prior to your surgical date, and it will be provided for you on the date of surgery. Specific instructions on how to use your DME, and for what length of time, will be discussed in you post-operative instructions on the day of your surgery.
Will I need to start physical therapy (PT) right away? – After some surgeries, we prefer patients begin therapy as soon as possible to work on range of motion.
When do I get my stitches removed ? – After surgery, you will schedule an appointment to return to the office in 10-14 days, at which time we will remove your sutures and replace your Steri-Strips. After this time, you should still take care not to soak you incisions until 3-4 weeks after surgery, or until the incisions are well-healed.
When do I restart my medications if I stopped them prior to surgery? – You should contact your primary care physician to coordinate restarting your medications.
What new medications will I have after surgery? What are the side effects? – You will have new medications following surgery including narcotic pain medications. Narcotic pain medications in particular can have the side effects of nausea, GI upset, and constipation. To avoid these side effects, make sure to eat a diet with plenty of fluids and fiber. Should they occur, you will be provided a medication to control nausea, and you may take Milk of Magnesia, Magnesium Citrate, or a stool softener (colace) for relief.
What should I do if I have an emergency? – If you experience an emergency after your surgery, you should contact our office right away. The most common post-operative emergencies include painful swelling or numbness, unrelenting pain, fever greater than 101.5° or chills, redness that is spreading around incisions, continuous drainage or bleeding from incision (a small amount of drainage is expected) , excessive nausea/vomiting , or difficulty breathing/chest pain (consider going directly to the emergency room if this is persistent). If the emergency is after hours, you will still call our office number 312-432-2351, at which time you will receive prompts to our answering service which will notify Dr. Nicholson’s practice immediately.
How do I contact the doctor after surgery? – You may call our office number 312-432-2351 for any questions or concerns during business hours or 312-243-4244 after hours in the case of emergencies.