7 Steps to Prep for Hand Surgery

It’s hard to appreciate just how much you rely on your hands until one of them is limited by chronic pain or dysfunction — even simple tasks can become arduous and challenging when you have stiff, aching fingers and a weak grip. 

When physical therapy, bracing, and other conservative solutions don’t provide adequate relief for persistent impairment in your fingers, hands, wrists, or elbows, surgery is often the best way to restore hand function, strength, and dexterity.  

Whether you’re having hand surgery to resolve an overuse syndrome, repair a traumatic injury, or improve a degenerative condition, the specialists at Orthopaedic Associates of Reading, Ltd. know that careful preparation is key for assuring a smooth procedure and an optimal recovery. 

Follow these steps to help ensure your hand surgery has the best possible outcome:  

1. Obtain medical clearance

Getting medical clearance is the first step in preparing for any kind of hand surgery, even if it doesn’t require general anesthesia. Within a month of your scheduled procedure, you should have a pre-op check-up with your primary care doctor. This visit includes a comprehensive medical history, a physical, and bloodwork. 

If you’re older, overweight, or have any chronic health conditions, you also need to have an EKG for cardiac clearance. To ensure that any preexisting health problems won’t interfere with your surgery, you also need the go-ahead from a relevant specialist such as a cardiologist.

2. Adjust your medications

Ten days before your surgery, stop taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®), or naproxen (Aleve®). NSAIDs have an anti-clotting effect that increases your risk of excess bleeding both during and after surgery. 

If you take aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin®), or another blood thinner to treat a specific medical condition, your physician may recommend different timing guidelines for when to stop. In most cases, medication can resume the day after surgery. 

3. Stop smoking, or curb your habit

If you use nicotine, stop smoking or strictly curtail your habit as soon as possible. Smoking has far-reaching effects on your body that can boost your chances of experiencing complications during surgery; it also interferes with the healing process and slows post-operative recovery.   

If you find it difficult to quit completely, try to smoke less often. Cutting your habit by 50-75% can be beneficial before hand surgery, and it’s definitely better than doing nothing. 

4. Get a designated helper

Because most hand surgeries are done on an outpatient basis, you must arrange for someone to drive you to and from the surgery. If you don’t have someone you can rely on, you can use a taxi or a car service to get home after your procedure.

If possible, your designated helper should also stay with you for the first night or two after your operation — having an extra set of fully functional hands can help your recovery get off to a good start. 

5. Find out what to expect

Hand surgery often requires a significant amount of healing and downtime. To set yourself up for a successful outcome and a speedy recovery, it’s a good idea to understand exactly what to expect, both in the days after your surgery and as the weeks go on.  

Go over your postsurgical instructions a couple of times before your procedure. After writing down any questions you have, make a detailed list of everything you should have on hand as you recover. Give yourself ample time to gather necessary medical supplies and get answers for any unresolved questions or concerns. 

6. Stock up on groceries

You don’t want to have to worry about what you’ll eat — or how you’ll make meals — when you’re recovering from hand surgery. Just before your procedure, make sure you stock your pantry and refrigerator with enough food to last at least a week, if not two. 

Unless you have someone helping you, it can also be beneficial to prepare a few favorite meals ahead of time. Choose dishes that freeze well, and you’ll simply have to reheat them when it’s time to eat.  

7. Prepare a recovery zone 

To reduce swelling and enhance healing, most hand surgeries require you to keep your arm elevated as much as possible for the first two weeks of recovery. Create a comfortable place in your home where you can keep your arm elevated as you rest, eat, read, or watch television.  

You won’t be able to change your bed sheets or do laundry soon after surgery, either, so make sure you take care of any hand-intensive chores before your procedure.  

To learn more about hand surgery and how to set yourself up for an optimal recovery, call your nearest Orthopaedic Associates of Reading office in Hamburg, Reading, or Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, today, or request an appointment online with one of our hand/upper extremity experts any time. You can also send a message to the team here on our website.

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