HF 7792

Shoulder Replacement at UW Health East Madison Hospital

This handout will tell you what to expect before and after shoulder replacement surgery. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Before Surgery

To make sure you are in good health, you will need to have a pre-op visit with our providers within 30 days of surgery.

Dental care: You will need to have a dental cleaning in the last year but no later than 1 week before surgery. If you need dental procedures (extractions, fillings, root canals etc.), surgery will be postponed until 6 weeks after these procedures.

Vaccines: In most cases, it is okay to get a vaccine in the nonsurgical arm at least a week before or after surgery.

Specialists: You may also need to meet with other doctors before surgery such as a cardiologist, pulmonologist or anesthesiologist. We will let you know if you need this.

Pre-Op visit: We will review the instructions for surgery at this visit. We will also go over your health history and do an exam. You will likely need lab work and an EKG. Tell us if you take blood thinners or have any implants such as a pacemaker. This visit will last one to two hours.


Nicotine slows down healing, increases infection risk and has other harmful effects. If you use nicotine in ANY form, we will ask you to quit for at least one month before surgery. We will also ask you not to use it while you’re healing. Some surgeons will test your blood to make sure you do not have nicotine in your system.


  • Do not take any nonsteroidal medicines such as ibuprofen, Naproxen, Aleve, or Motrin for 1 week before surgery. You may take Tylenol if needed.

  • Do not take herbal supplements or multivitamins for 1 week before surgery.

  • If you are on Coumadin (warfarin) or other blood thinners, you will need to stop them before surgery. Ask your doctor how to taper off blood thinners.

  • If you are taking medicines for arthritis, you may need to stop these before surgery.

  • If you have diabetes, we will talk with you about your insulin or oral medicines at your clinic visit.

Getting Ready

A nurse will call you at the phone number listed in your chart 1 business day before surgery. Make sure we have your correct contact numbers. The nurse will tell you when to arrive, where to go, and answer questions that you may have. Before this call, please write down any questions you have. If you think you have missed our call or do not receive a call by 4 pm, call (608) 234-6698.

Try to get a good night’s sleep. If you are coming from out of town, you may wish to stay in Madison. Our Guest Services staff can give you a list of nearby hotels and arrange for your stay at a discount rate. You may contact them at (608) 440-6242.

The night before surgery, eat a light supper with small amounts of low-fat foods. Stop eating solid foods and milk-type drinks at midnight the night before surgery. Most patients can drink only clear liquids up until 4 hours before surgery begins. If you are the first surgery of the day, you may not have anything to eat or drink after midnight.

Shower with Hibiclens (CHG) soap starting five days before, and the morning of surgery.

Wash all your skin from the neck down. Avoid your genitals. Wash your shoulder well. Make sure the soap stays on your skin for at least 60 seconds. Do not shave the surgical site. If you shave your armpits, do not shave for three days before surgery. You will be given more instructions for skin prep the day of your pre op.

Remove nail polish, make-up, and jewelry. Leave any items of value at home.

Plan Ahead

If you live alone, have easy meals ready such as frozen dishes, cereal or sandwich makings so you do not have to cook.

Some people prefer to sit upright for sleeping so they move a special chair into their room or buy a pillow wedge to help prop themselves up.

Pick out loose button or zip up shirts to wear. Easy to pull on pants and shoes are helpful too.

We plan to have you stay overnight after surgery. Most people are released after the lunch hour the day after surgery.

Arrange for someone to bring you home the next day. You should also arrange for someone to stay with you at least for a few days.

In some cases, home care may be needed if you require more help. Please discuss this with your surgeon. A social worker or nurse case manager can help you arrange this.

Rarely, patients need to go to a rehab center or nursing home. In most cases, this is not covered under Medicare unless you have other health problems.

The Morning of Surgery

Take only your approved medicines with a sip of water.

Bring shoes that are easy to slip on, bottoms that are easy to pull on and a shirt that buttons up the front or any loose-fitting shirt large enough to go over a sling.

Bring inhalers, CPAP, eyeglasses, eye drops, hearing aids, dentures, prostheses, or other special aids that you will need. These items should be labeled and, in a case, if needed. Please do not bring your medicines unless you were told to bring them.

A Note to Families

You can wait in the Surgical Waiting Area on the 1st floor near the main entrance. If you have other family who will be calling, please have them call (608) 440-6400.

Going Home

The day after surgery, an occupational therapist (OT) and/or physical therapist (PT) will visit you in your room. They will review safety measures for your shoulder, how to use the sling and show you how get out of bed safely. They may also give you simple exercises to do at home. You will go home with a Polar Care Icing unit. Instructions for using this will be reviewed at your pre op visit.


You will start formal therapy after your first post op visit. If you have a therapist outside of UW Health, ask for a copy of the therapy protocol your doctor uses.

Safety Measures

  • Wear the sling as directed by your surgeon.

  • You surgeon may have restrictions on your shoulder.

  • Bathing: The clear plastic dressing is waterproof and will remain in place until your first post op visit. You may shower 2 days after surgery. Do not submerge the surgical site under water for 6 weeks. After the shower, pat the area dry (do not rub).

Pain Relief

We may prescribe you a narcotic and an anti-inflammatory medicine. These can upset your stomach so take them with food. Acetaminophen can be used also unless you were instructed not to use this. Use the Polar Care ice unit as needed for pain and swelling.

Other Medicines

We may prescribe you medicine to prevent blood clots for a short time.

Activity Guidelines

Exercise (short term): Common sense will tell you when you are over doing it. Doing too much can cause pain and delay healing. Doing too little can delay the return of your strength. The right amount of activity can help you heal more quickly. Doing your home exercises will help you heal.

Exercise (long term): You should avoid bench pressing weights with your new shoulder as well as heavy, repetitive overhead lifting.

Driving: Do not drive when taking any prescribed pain pills. Your surgeon will give you further instructions.

Lifting: Lifting is not restricted aside from heavy overhead lifting and bench pressing. You will need to avoid lifting away from your body.

Housework: Any work you can do with one hand is allowed.

Sports: No sports for three to six months or until your doctor gives you the okay.


You need to be extra careful to prevent an infection in the new joint. Taking antibiotics before and after certain procedures can reduce your risk. Let your doctor or dentist know that you have had a joint replacement. Plan to take antibiotics before:

  • Dental procedures such as root canals and extractions (some surgeons require you to use antibiotics before routine cleanings).

  • Procedures that could cause trauma to body tissues (colonoscopy, endoscopy, some rectal exams or bladder exams).

Clinic Visits After Surgery

You will be scheduled for a clinic visit 10-14 days after surgery. The timing for your return visit may vary by surgeon. We will see you sooner if you have concerns.

Who to Call

Sports Medicine Clinic


Before Surgery & After Surgery Unit

(608) 234-6698

Guest Services

(608) 440-6242

Hospital Paging Operator

(608) 262-0486

Patient Information (for room number)

(608) 440-6400


(608) 240-4265


(to speak with a financial counselor or verify insurance)

(608) 261-1600