Post-Surgery FAQs

A couple dances outside.

We hope you have a successful surgery and pleasant experience throughout your treatment and recovery. At the start of your surgical journey with MUSC Health, you will receive a handbook that details all of the information you will need to know. You will also be connected with our joint-replacement nurse navigator who will be available to guide you along each step of the process.

Many individuals considering surgery have questions about what their recovery will look like and how it will impact their day-to-day lives. We’ve included several FAQs below for both total shoulder and total elbow surgeries that you may find beneficial as you consider surgery. Your nurse navigator and surgeon are also always available to answer any questions you may have throughout the pre- and post-operative processes.

If you have any questions along the way, please do not hesitate to reach out to your nurse navigator or care team. We are here to help guide you through the process.

Recovering at Home After Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery Or Total Elbow Replacement Surgery

Will I Need Help at Home After My surgery?

Absolutely – You will need assistance at home for at least the first two weeks to help you get around, go to the bathroom, shower, dress, remove/apply your sling, and prepare meals.

When Will I Be Able To Return to Work?

Returning to work varies for each patient based on the type of surgery and type of work that they do. Typically, most patients return to work by 3 months after surgery. If you have a desk job, you may be able to go back to worker sooner. We will discuss your return to work status with you at each of your visits

Do I Need Antibiotics for Procedures After Surgery?

Yes – You will need antibiotics prior to invasive procedures such as dental work and GI procedures. We are happy to call in a prescription for you or your dentist or doctor can take care of this for you. This decreases your risk of getting an infection that can spread to your prosthetic joint and is strongly recommended.

Can I Get a DMV Disability Placard?

Our goal for you is to be as mobile as possible before and after surgery, so we discourage giving out DMV Disability Placards. However, we will give you a temporary prescription if we feel it is necessary.

Do I Need a Card to Show Airport Attendants When Traveling?

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) does not require you to have a card to indicate that you have had a joint replacement as showing a card does not prevent you from needing additional screening at the airport. We do not give out any documentation for traveling purposes.

How Soon Can I Drive After Surgery?

You should NEVER drive while taking prescription-strength pain relievers. We advise our shoulder replacement patients to wait at least 6 weeks before driving following surgery. For our elbow replacement patients, we advise our patients to wait until they have close to full range of motion in their elbow (approximately 4-6 weeks after surgery.) You may discuss this further with your surgeon at your post-op follow up appointments.

When I Can I Re-Start My Rheumatologic Medications?

We stop these medications prior to surgery to decrease your risk of complication, like infection, prior to surgery. Your surgeon will tell you how long you should not be taking them based on both the medication and your own medical history. Your surgeon will also discuss this at your first post-operative appointment.

How Soon Can I Swim After Surgery?

You should not soak in any water for long periods of time until your surgical incision has completely healed. This includes swimming and taking a bath. Typically, your incision will be healed around the 4 week post-operative time point, but this may take longer for some patients. Ask your surgeon before swimming or performing other recreational activities.

When Can I Have Sex Safely After Surgery?

Joint replacement is a major surgery, and healing takes time. You should not engage in sexual activity until you and your partner feel comfortable, and we recommend waiting until your incision has healed, or until at least 4-6 weeks post-op.