General post-operative instruction
At your discharge from the hospital you should have received some simple instructions from your specialist and nursing staff as to the expectations after surgery. Some discomfort and swelling is to be expected after most surgical procedures and should settle over the course of time. If you are concerned about excessive bleeding, swelling or your pain levels dramatically increase rather than slowly decrease then that may be a cause for concern.
If you are worried about your progress in the post-operative period there are a number of simple things that can be done. Excessive activity after surgery may cause swelling and pain. If you have been active then a period of rest and elevation of the affected limb is recommended. Ice and the use of simple analgesics (i.e. Paracetamol, Advil, Nurofen, etc) may be sufficient to reduce your pain. If your specialist has prescribed stronger pain killers after the surgery then it is very reasonable to continue taking those as directed. If symptoms are persistent despite these instructions then we normally advise that you bring this to the attention of your specialist.
If you are concerned with your progress you should contact your specialists office directly for advice during office hours. After hours the Wakefield Orthopaedic Clinic provides an on-call service that will put you directly in touch with a specialist who can give you simple advice as to further management of your condition. Another option is to contact your general practitioner. Country patients in particular can often access their general practitioner more easily than returning to the Wakefield Orthopaedic Clinic and we are very happy for you to see your general practitioner for advice. If your general practitioner remains concerned having reviewed you then they can contact the on-call Wakefield Orthopaedic Clinic specialist and discuss the situation further. If there is a dramatic deterioration of your condition and you are very concerned despite the advice you have received we would advise that you immediately make your way to the nearest accident and emergency service, either by your own transport means or by ambulance if you feel that is appropriate. Our on call specialist is certainly happy to liaise with the accident and emergency doctor should it be necessary.
Your specialist will generally provide you with an information sheet with simple post-surgical instructions after common procedures such as knee arthroscopy and anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. After a hip or knee replacement your specialist, the nursing staff and physiotherapist on the ward will give you further instruction on expectations after discharge. If you feel that you are not achieving the expectations or there is concern about the progress of your healing please feel free to contact your surgeon’s office to arrange an earlier appointment.
Many patients are keen to know when they can drive after surgery. The answer to this is very variable depending on the condition and the body part that has been operated upon. For simple procedures such as a knee arthroscopy patients can generally drive within 48 hours as long as they are mobilising comfortably. After more involved surgery such as anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction, it is generally advised not to drive for a period of two weeks. As a general rule once you are mobilising freely without the use of crutches or a walking stick and you have reasonable leg control in the operated leg it is safe to drive. After hip and knee replacement surgery the general guideline is that it is approximately six weeks before you should attempt to drive. If you feel you are making more rapid progress and would like to drive sooner we recommend that you contact your specalist to clarify the legality of this. In cases where you had surgery on the left leg and you have an automatic vehicle it may be possible to drive sooner than the six week period.
Dressings and Sutures
You should receive instructions about your dressings and sutures at discharge. Ideally dressings should be kept dry although Opsite (plastic skin) type dressings can be gently washed over as long as the area is thoroughly dried after.
If your dressing becomes wet underneath or starts to peel it should be removed and changed. If there is excessive redness or pus forming around your sutures this should be brought to your specialist’s or general practitioner’s attention.
Some sutures are dissolving and may fall out prior to your post-operative review. Otherwise sutures will be removed at your post-operative visit.
The Wakefield Orthopaedic Clinic has a number of simple post-surgical information sheets available from your specialist’s profile page. This information sheets will hopefully provide you with the necessary guidance after your surgery.
If you have concerns that are not adequately answered by these information sheets then please make contact with your specialist to clarify any questions you may have. The direct line phone numbers for each Wakefield Orthopaedic Clinic specialist are available from our Contact Us page.