Your elbow area may feel warm and tender for 2 to 4 weeks after surgery. The swelling should go down during this time. For the first week after surgery, you may have a soft splint on your arm to hold your elbow in place. After the incision has healed, you may need to use a harder splint or brace that has a hinge. Although elbow joint replacement is much less common than knee or hip replacement, it is just as successful in relieving joint pain and returning people to activities they enjoy.
Elbow replacements have been highly successful for years. Many people who have suffered from elbow pain and arthritis have experienced relief through total elbow replacement and restored motion in their elbow. And because medicine is always developing new materials and procedures, the results continue to get better. The complication rate following total elbow replacement is low. Serious complications, such as elbow-joint infection, occur in as few as 5.0% of patients.1 Major medical complications, such as heart attack or stroke, occur even less frequently. Of course, chronic illnesses may increase the potential for complications.
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You may be able to start using your elbow as soon as 12 weeks after surgery. Full recovery can take up to a year. Your medical team will give you several doses of antibiotics to prevent infection. Most patients are able to eat solid food and get out of bed the day after surgery. You will most likely stay at the hospital 2 to 4 days after your surgery.
After surgery, you will feel some pain. This is a natural part of the healing process. Your doctor and nurses will work to reduce your pain, which can help you recover from surgery faster.
Medications are often prescribed for short-term pain relief after surgery. Many types of medicines are available to help manage pain, including opioids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and local anesthetics. Your doctor may use a combination of these medications to improve pain relief, as well as minimize the need for opioids.
Be aware that although opioids help relieve pain after surgery, they are a narcotic and can be addictive. Opioid dependency and overdose has become a critical public health issue in the U.S. It is important to use opioids only as directed by your doctor. As soon as your pain begins to improve, stop taking opioids. Talk to your doctor if your pain has not begun to improve within a few days of your surgery.
In overall, Pain is normal after elbow replacement surgery. It should get better over time.
Your surgeon will give you a prescription for pain medicine. After surgery, get it filled when you go home so that you have it when you need it. Take the pain medicine when you start having pain. Waiting too long to take it allows the pain to get worse than it should.
Ibuprofen or another anti-inflammatory medicine may also help. Ask your doctor what other medicines are safe to take with your pain medicine. Follow instructions exactly on how to take your medicines.
Narcotic pain medicine (codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone) can make you constipated. If you are taking them, drink plenty of fluids, and eat fruits and vegetables and other high-fiber foods to help keep your stools loose.
DO NOT drink alcohol or drive if you are taking narcotic pain medicine. This medicine may make you too sleepy to drive safely.
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A careful, well-planned rehabilitation program is critical to the success of an elbow replacement. You will be taught some exercises for your hand and wrist to avoid stiffness and help to control swelling. You will do gentle elbow range-of-motion exercises as the incision heals. Your doctor may prescribe therapy or may teach you how to do the exercises yourself.
You will most likely not be allowed to put any weight on your arm or push against resistance with your hand until about 6 weeks after your surgery.
Your elbow area may feel warm and tender for 2 to 4 weeks after surgery. The swelling should go down during this time.
For the first week after surgery, you may have a soft splint on your arm to hold your elbow in place. After the incision has healed, you may need to use a harder splint or brace that has a hinge.
Arrange for someone to help with chores such as shopping, bathing, making meals, and housework for up to 6 weeks. You may want to make some changes around your home so it is easier for you to take care of yourself.
You will need to wait 4 to 6 weeks before you can drive. Your surgeon or physical therapist will tell you when it is OK.
You may be able to start using your elbow as soon as 12 weeks after surgery. Full recovery can take up to a year.
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It is very important to get your arm moving as soon as possible, to avoid joint stiffness and muscle tightness. At first, your elbow will feel stiff and painful, but it is important that you continue to move it as this will aid your recovery. It usually takes approximately 6 weeks for the fracture to fully heal.
If a disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or an injury has harmed your elbow, your doctor may recommend surgery to replace the joint, so you have less pain and can move better. During elbow replacement, a surgeon replaces your elbow with an artificial joint made from two implants that attach to the bones in your arm. Other possible signs such as: aching in the joint, followed by periods of relative relief; pain after extensive use; reduced elbow motion; joint stiffness after periods of inactivity or rest; and/or pain that seems to increase in humid weather may also lead you and your doctor to consider an elbow replacement surgery.
You'll need to avoid activities that can cause further injury, such as hammering, playing contact sports, and lifting heavy weights. The amount of weight you can lift using your surgery arm will be limited. Your doctor may recommend that you don't lift anything heavier than a cup of coffee for the first four to six weeks. Please consult with your orthopedic surgeon before you begin lifting anything.
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