Warning: This post includes images of surgery incisions.
I decided to write regular posts describing recovery from shoulder surgery…sort of a diary documenting the experience. Being that this was my 7th surgery with general anesthesia, I began to feel like a “frequent flyer”. In fact, the nurses at the outpatient surgery center remembered me from previous procedures. Fortunately I reported at 7:15 a.m. and I was the surgeon’s second procedure of the day. This means that I didn’t have to go without food or coffee for long and could be back home relatively early in the day. After paperwork, I was escorted to a pre-op room where a nurse went over medications and inserted an IV catheter (see pic). The surgeon came in to answer any questions and he used a permanent maker to write on the correct shoulder. He also asked about how my other shoulder was feeling since he injected it with steroid the previous week. The anesthesiologist also came in to discuss the anesthesia. He gave me a scopolamine patch behind my ear to reduce nausea. I waited about 15 minutes before being escorted to the operating room. It’s a little strange walking into the OR and not being wheeled into the room on a gurney.
The OR are always kept quite cool. There were two assistants/nurses and the anesthesiologist in the room and they all said hello. There is music playing and I asked who got to pick out the music – the anesthesiologist! They had me lay on a weird table and I was strapped in around the waist and compression leggings were put on. Being that this was my 7th experience, I was not nervous. I was hooked up to a blood pressure cuff and pulse/ox probe. The anesthesiologist mentioned that he was going to use a nerve block to help control pain after the surgery. A mask was placed over my mouth and nose and I started breathing oxygen. Within a few minutes they started the IV and gas anesthesia. This time I experimented fighting it and staying awake as long as I could. It didn’t take long and I said “goodnight” 🙂
I woke up to the post-op nurse calling my name and I felt pretty good. An injection of the narcotic fentanyl was given to help with pain. After 30 or so minutes, I was moved to another room and my wife and pastor came back. The surgeon met with my wife and told her that he cut off of end of the collar bone, cleaned up the AC joint bone spurs, and repaired the rotator cuff which was right under the AC joint and was damaged by the bone spurs. The biceps tendon was fine. I was given two oral oxycodones and a hydroxyzine which is an antihistamine to help with narcotic side effects. I was given post-op instructions. After dressing, I was taken to my car in a wheel chair. I asked my wife to stop at Starbucks and pick up a grande, two pump chestnut praline latte – yum. After getting home, a breakfast of toast and eggs filled an empty stomach. The shoulder felt pretty good because of the nerve block but I took the oxycodone and a hydroxyzine on a regular 4 hour interval. Dear friends came by with some delicious fried rice and a coconut cream pie – my favorite!
I found that only shirts with button or zipper fronts could be used as there’s no way to slip one over the head without moving the shoulder. Sleep was awkward but I found I could lie on my back or left side. At most 3-4 hours of sleep would be had at a time and I would get up to take oxycodone and eat a little food to avoid nausea. A very thick bandage was placed on the shoulder in the OR and I was instructed to remove it on day 2. The orange must be betadine or something similar for sterilizing the area. There were 3 incisions – two on the front and one of the side – where the surgeon inserted arthroscopic instruments and a camera. I replaced the bandages and attempted to ice the area as much as possible. As long as I don’t move the shoulder, the pain levels are very tolerable. Using my left arm for daily functions works well and I well experienced in this after having surgery on my right elbow last year. I’m thankful for arthroscopic surgery as opposed to open incisions. I watched several videos of similar procedures to get an idea of what to expect.
I am surprised how well I feel today. This was certainly not the case with neck and sinus surgeries. A follow-up visit will take place next week and physical therapy will start in six weeks.
On a side note, it was very sad to hear of the death of music legend Glenn Frey from RA. It’s not clear what exactly happened but this drives home the point that RA can impact much more than joints and dramatically increases mortality.