Simon Richards

orthopaedic surgeon


your Specialist in conditions


of the arm & hand


Post Operative Hand Advice

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Elevation of the hand above the level of the heart.

Post operative care following hand surgery

Surgery causes your body to produce inflammation and swelling which can be painful and make it difficult to move your joints. It can also cause complications in the later stages of healing.

It is essential therefore that you elevate your hand to help drain the swelling after surgery. You may be given a sling to take home, which should be used for the first 48 -72 hrs.

Your hand needs to be elevated right above your head for a few minutes in every hour and any joints not immobilized by the dressing or plaster must be exercised (including fingers, wrist, elbow and shoulder if appropriate).You should also keep your hand raised ,when resting, above the level of your heart.

Elevation uses gravity to assist drainage of the swelling. Movement of the unaffected joints helps with the body’s “pumping mechanism” as well as preventing unnecessary joint stiffness.

Every hour you should:-
Raise your hand above your head.
Take all unaffected joints through their full range of movement.

It is normal for your hand to swell and bruise after your operation. If you find that your hand is painful, you should take your normal pain killers, but if the pain persists, you should seek advice from your G.P or the hospital where the surgery was undertaken.

Follow Up care

The suture used to close your wound is normally dissolvable and so will not need removing.
Your wound should remain covered, clean and dry for the first 10 days to 2 weeks.

After this time you should allow the wound to get some air to help it dry out and heal.

If your fingers are free from dressings you should try to use your hand as normally as you can for light activities at first: gradually increasing the weight you lift from about 4-6 weeks. If you should not use your hand, it will be immobilized with a plaster cast or splint and you should take advice about it from your therapist.

Once the wound is healed and dry (usually at around 2 weeks) you should moisturize the scar with non-scented cream e.g E45 or aqueous cream, in a circular and FIRM motion. This will help sooth the tenderness in the scar, reduce the formation of scar tissue and help with hand movement and function. This is an essential part of your aftercare following surgery.

Sometimes people suffer with sore scars or stiff fingers post-operatively. If you are at all concerned with your scar, the pain or how your hand is moving please contact the G.P, therapist, or treating hospital for advice.