Arthroscopic Surgery Post-Operative Information

Use of Your Arm and Recovery After:

  • Rotator Cuff Repair/Debridement or Labral Repair: You may use your arm for light activities of daily living as long as you keep the elbow on your operated arm within two inches of your body. This will prevent you from tearing your repair due to contracting the repaired or trimmed supraspinatus or biceps/labral muscle and tendon. Thus you may bend and extend your elbow, use your hand and wrist and rotate your arm inward and outward. You may remove your sling and shoulder immobilizer. Your arm may swing normally next to your body when you walk, as long as you do not use your shoulder muscles to lift your elbow away from your body. Full recovery after rotator cuff repair usually takes four to nine months. Full recovery after labral repair usually takes six months. Your allowed activities will be gradually increased during this time.
  • Acromioplasty. Distal Clavicectomy, Loose Body Removal, Biceps Debridement, Labral Debridement: You may use your arm for light activities of daily living as tolerated. Full recovery usually occurs a few months after surgery. Your allowed activities will gradually be increased during this time.


You should not drive before your first post-operative visit.

Wound Care:

You will have two to five roughly 1-centimeter arthroscopic punctures and no incision. The post-surgical dressing will be moist or wet and may appear bloody on the night of surgery, as the fluid used to inflate your shoulder seeps out tinged with blood. Do not worry that you are bleeding excessively unless the dressing becomes saturated with bright red blood. In 17 years of practice I have never had this occur to an arthroscopic shoulder patient. On the first day after surgery, remove the dressing after hand washing. Usually you may apply a simple band-aid to each puncture. If one or more of the punctures is still draining, apply sterile gauze with tape until it stops. You may shower on the second day after surgery and should re-apply band-aids afterwards.

Pain Control:

You will probably have hydrocodone with acetaminophen. If you are allergic, you will have another medicine. Take these as per the instructions on the bottle as needed. Do not take aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), or glucosamine after surgery without discussing it first with Dr Prodromos, as these medications may slow healing. You may apply crushed ice as needed in a plastic bag over your dressing.


Swelling after arthroscopic shoulder surgery may be massive. This does not represent bleeding but rather the harmless uptake of the saltwater solution, used to inflate your shoulder, into the fatty tissue under your skin. This swelling will diminish over a few days. Much of it will travel into your upper arm, forearm and hand before disappearing entirely. This is normal and no cause for alarm.


You may have had an intra-scalene nerve block before the surgery to relieve post-operative pain. This block may take 24 hours to completely wear off. During this time your arm may feel numb and weak. This is part of the pain relieving effect and is no cause for alarm.


You may eat whatever you wish. Do not push yourself to eat if you feel nauseated. It is important to drink a moderate amount of fluid. Many patients do not have much of an appetite for 24 hours after the surgery. As long as you are consuming fluids (Gatorade, clear non-caffeinated soda, or chicken broth are best) this is not a problem. Your appetite should gradually return.

Follow-Up Appointment:

Call our office to schedule a follow-up appointment about one week after the surgery. The exact timing is not critical, but it should be more than three days, and less than 11 days, after the procedure. We will remove your stitches or staples at that time and review your surgical findings.

Body Temperature – Fevers:

Your normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees may increase normally by one degree in the evening. Thus, a true fever is usually over 100 degrees. Fevers are normal after surgery due to chemicals released by bleeding. Fevers in the first four post-operative days do not indicate the presence of an infection. Fevers over 100 degrees after the first four post-operative days may indicate infection. Infection is exceedingly rare after arthroscopic surgery. If your fever is over 101 degrees, you may wish to take Advil or Tylenol, if you are excessively hot, but in general the Tylenol (acetaminophen) in your pain prescription will provide sufficient temperature control. If your temperature is over 100 degrees on or after the fifth post-operative day, call me.

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