Elbow Surgery Considerations

Elbow Treatments & Surgeries - Adelaide Orthopaedic Specialist

Wound Dressings

  • Remove the bandage and wool on the third day after surgery. If the underlying surgical dressing is clean and dry, leave it alone. If minimal drainage is present, apply a clean waterproof dressing over the incision (Tegaderm dressing).
  • To avoid infection, keep surgical incisions clean and dry - you may shower starting the day after surgery if you seal the surgical site with plastic around the bandage. After the third day you just need the waterproof dressing alone.  Do not immerse the operative arm (i.e. in a bath) until the wound is dry and the suture trimmed (2 weeks).

Pain control

  • A local anaesthetic is injected into the wound and elbow joint during surgery - this will wear off within 12 hours
  • Paracetamol and Anti-inflammatories (eg. Ibuprofen or Diclofenacl) should be taken regularly for the first few weeks after surgery (as long as required).


  • Your sling should be worn for comfort for a few days after surgery
  • You may remove this as comfortable.

Ice Therapy

  • Ice packs help reduce pain and swelling. It should be applied every 2 hours for 20 minutes daily.
  • Do not let ice come into direct contact with your skin. It should always be wrapped in a plastic bag over-wrapped with a towel.


  • Elevate the operative arm to chest level whenever possible to decrease swelling
  • When sleeping or resting, inclined positions (i.e. reclining chair) and a pillow under the forearm for support may provide better comfort
  • Do not engage in activities which increase pain/swelling (lifting or any repetitive wrist/elbow/shoulder movements) over the first 7-10 days following surgery
  • Driving and  return to light work 1 week after surgery, if pain is tolerable


  • You will be seen by a physiotherapist at the hospital after your surgery
  • Gentle shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand range of motion exercises can be performed starting on the first post-operative day
  • Formal physiotherapy with your own therapist should commence about a week after surgery and consists of local care and a specific exercise program

Follow Up

  • You will be sent an appointment to see us approximately 3 weeks after surgery. If you have any queries or concerns please contact us.

To find out more about elbow surgery considerations or to book a consultation, contact Dr James McLean.

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