COMPLICATIONS OF SURGERY
As with any surgery complications may occur after shoulder surgery. Luckily enough serious complications are very rare and most of the complications are minor and more of a nuisance.
After surgery you will obviously have pain in the shoulder. I will give you medication to deal with this. Guidelines for your medication will be given to you when your surgery is booked. It is extremely important to stop taking this medication if it makes you feel nauseated or itchy or has other unwanted side effects. You will then need to try some other medication or stay off treatment completely and deal with the pain in other ways.
After your surgery you will certainly have some swelling in the shoulder, This will settle down over the weeks following your operation. You will almost always have some bruising and this can be quite severe. It often tracks down your biceps tendon towards your elbow. This is entirely normal and always goes away with time leaving no ill-effects. Bleeding is very uncommon after surgery but you will notice patches of blood and fluid on your dressings. This is because we use special dressings which are designed to absorb any blood or fluid and you will notice this on the outside of the dressings. This is particularly common if you have had keyhole surgery. The wounds are almost always clean underneath and you should not change the dressings until I see you in my rooms unless there is a particular problem.
Serious bleeding is very uncommon but obviously if you note this you need to go back to hospital.
Stiffness after shoulder surgery is very common. I believe that after surgery, particularly rotator cuff repairs, some stiffness is actually a positive thing because it restricts the movements allowing maximum healing of the tissues. The stiffness almost always resolves with time although it can take many months. It is important to note that stretching the shoulder after shoulder surgery is a bad thing – it will make the pain and stiffness worse and will not improve the movement. Stiffness must be allowed to resolve by itself.
After any surgery infection is a definite risk. The underarm is a source of some serious bacteria especially in our hot climate and I take particular caution to deal with this problem before surgery. However, in spite of all precautions infection is possible. Serious infection is in the region of 1 in every 200-300 cases. If serious it requires prolonged antibiotics and another operation to clean out the wound. Generally a good result is still obtained.
After shoulder surgery you may notice a change in the shape of your arm, this is particularly the case if the biceps tendon needed to be released. This happens if it is severely torn. In spite of this change of shape your arm will work normally without any problem and some aching may occur for a few months.
If your arm is in a sling with your elbow bent the ulna nerve may be squashed behind the elbow; this will give you tingling in your little finger, this can be treated by taking your arm out of the sling and straightening out your elbow for some time during the day.
Serious complications in the shoulder are very rare. It is always theoretically possible to do damage to major nerves or blood vessels and theoretically this can lead to a loss of your limb or life. It is important however to understand these are extremely rare complications.
You will have a general anaesthetic for your operation and obviously there are risks and complications associated with this. If you have any special concerns your anaesthetist will talk further about this to you.