• UK Center for Cartilage Repair and Restoration

    Shoulder Arthroscopy post-operative (after surgery) instructions

    Download Shoulder Arthroscopy post-operative (after surgery) instructions (PDF, 39 KB)

    Wound Dressing

    • After shoulder arthroscopy the wound is covered with gauze or ace wraps. 
    • These should generally be left in place for 24 hours.
    • Due to the large amount of fluid used during the arthroscopy, it is normal to see some bloody drainage on the dressings.
    • If bright red blood persists despite elevation and application of ice, please call the doctor.
    • The dressing should be removed and wounds covered with adhesive bandages on the first or second day after surgery.
    • Do not remove the paper strips over the incision or cut any visible sutures.
    • Wounds should be kept dry for 48 hours.
    • Unless otherwise instructed, on the 5th day after the surgery, the wound may be exposed in the shower, taking care not to scrub the area.
    • The wound should not be submerged in a bathtub or pool until three weeks after surgery.


    • It is very important to apply ice for the first 5-7 days after surgery.
    • While the post-op dressing is in place, apply ice continuously.
    • Once the dressing is removed on the first or second day, ice is applied for 20-minute periods, 3-4 times per day.
    • Care must be taken with ice to avoid frostbite.


    • On the first day after surgery, begin doing the physical therapy exercises that were given to you. 


    • You may use your arm to assist with dressing, eating and personal hygiene unless specifically instructed not to by your physician.
    • Be sure to use and move your hand, wrist and elbow in order to decrease swelling in your arm. While exercise is important, don't over-do it. Common sense is the rule.
    • You will also be instructed on gentle range of motion exercises to be started the night of surgery.
    • Passive range of motion (using the opposite hand to move the operated arm) is always encouraged and can speed up the recovery.


    • The anesthetic drugs are used during your surgery and they may cause nausea for the first 24 hours. 
    • If nausea occurs, drink only clear liquids (i.e., Sprite or 7-up).
    • The only solid food that should be eaten is dry crackers or toast.
    • If nausea and vomiting become severe or the patient shows sign of dehydration (lack of urination) please call the doctor or the surgery center.
    • A low-grade fever (100.5) is not uncommon in the first 24 hours but is unusual beyond.
    • Please call the doctor with any temperature over 101.0 degrees.
    • You may take one baby aspirin (81 mg) a day until your sutures are removed in the office. This may lower the risk of a blood clot developing after surgery.
    • Bruising down to the elbow and chest wall is not uncommon.
    • Should severe calf pain occur or significant swelling of calf and ankle, please call the doctor.

    Pain Medication

    • Local anesthetics (i.e., Novocaine) are put into the joint during surgery. 
    • It is not uncommon for patients to encounter more pain on the first or second day after surgery. This is the time when swelling peaks.
    • Using the pain medication as directed will help control pain with little risk of complication.
    • Taking pain medication before bedtime will assist in sleeping.
    • It is important not to drink alcoholic beverages or drive while taking narcotic medication.
    • If you were prescribed narcotic medication (i.e. vicodin, hydrocodone, darvocet) you can supplement those medications with 200 mg or 400 mg of ibuprofen every 4-6 hours.
    • You should resume your normal medications for other conditions the day after surgery.
    • We have no specific diet restrictions after surgery but extensive use of narcotics can lead to constipation. High fiber diet, lots of fluids, and muscle activity can prevent this occurrence.

    Sleeping and shoulder support

    • Patients are generally more comfortable sleeping in a reclining chair or with pillows propped behind the shoulder which has had the surgery. Some difficulty with sleeping is common for 2-3 weeks after surgery. 
    • Following shoulder surgery, it is common to use a sling for 3-5 days after surgery. In some cases the doctor is going to ask you to use the sling for a longer period of time.

    Follow-up care

    • The doctor will need to reexamine you 7-10 days after routine shoulder arthroscopy. Please contact us to schedule a follow-up appointment.
    • If unexpected problems, emergencies or other issues occur and you need to talk to the doctor, contact us. After hours our answering service will route your call to a physician who will be able to advise you concerning your problem.

    Check with your doctor to make sure these instructions apply to your case.