What happens before and after shoulder surgery?

Before your shoulder surgery

Should surgery be recommended to relieve the pain and stiffness caused by your shoulder arthritis, the team at Circle will work with you in advance of the surgery to help ensure the best outcome for you. We know that many people feel concerned or worried about having surgery, so we make sure you are well informed about what to expect. 

Pre-assessment: When you have shoulder surgery at a Circle hospital, you will be invited to a pre-assessment appointment. Here, you will learn more about the operation, your stay in hospital and what to expect when you return home after your surgery.

Many people find it helpful to bring a family member or close friend with them to this pre-assessment appointment, so that they also have a clear understanding of the help you may require on discharge. Recovering from shoulder surgery can take some time, and you will be limited with certain everyday tasks, so the more support you have once you’re back home following your operation, the better.

Exercising before surgery: It is important to try to be as fit as possible before undergoing any surgery, and this remains the case for shoulder surgery. Low impact exercise such as swimming is encouraged, as long as it doesn’t aggravate your pain excessively.  As always, you should stop any exercise that becomes too painful. if you would appreciate expert guidance and support.

Admission for surgery: The time you will be asked to come to hospital will depend on the time of your operation. Usually you will be asked to come in the morning of your operation.

You will not be able to eat for eight hours prior to surgery although you will usually be able to drink small amounts of water up to four hours before.

Shoulder surgery (especially “open” shoulder surgery) is usually carried out under general anaesthetic, meaning you will be asleep throughout the operation. Before your surgery, the anaesthetist will attach the monitoring devices needed, including a blood pressure cuff and ECG to monitor your heart. When they are happy with everything, the anaesthetist will administer your anaesthesia, and once you are fully asleep your operation will take place in one of Circle’s dedicated operating theatres.

After your shoulder surgery

Following your operation, you will be taken to the theatre recovery area where you will be closely monitored by our theatre staff. Once you are awake and the staff are happy with all of your vital signs you will be taken back to your private room to rest. Your nurse will visit you regularly to make sure you are okay and to carry out post-surgery clinical observations, but you can also call them at any time by pressing a button on your bed.

Most people who have shoulder replacement surgery will need to stay in hospital for two nights afterwards, while those having arthroscopic surgery can often return home the same or following day.

Before you are discharged from the hospital, your physiotherapist will have taught you some mobility and strengthening exercises to aid in the recovery and rehabilitation of your shoulder joint. They will explain when and how often you should do these exercises once you return home.  

When you leave hospital, your shoulder will be covered by a dressing to help keep it clean and to reduce the risk of infection while you heal.

You will see your consultant at Circle at various intervals to review your progress. This is often after 3 months, after 1 year and then every other year, although the exact timings will be decided by your consultant. If you have any questions or concerns about your recovery at any time, you can of course contact your consultant for advice and help. 

Recovery following shoulder surgery

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Circle Health Group, 1st Floor, 30 Cannon Street, London, EC4M 6XH