Home Care after Hand Surgery
For Plastic Surgery Patients at The American Center
This handout was written to help you care for yourself at home after hand surgery. A nurse will
review this with you. If you have any questions or concerns after you go home, please call the
numbers at the end of this handout.
Your surgery was done to return your hand to the best possible level of function. Healing time
varies with each patient.
Making Yourself Comfortable
You may need to use narcotic pain medicine at home. If keeping your arm up does not reduce
pain and swelling, use pain medicine as ordered. Over time, you should no longer need pain
medicine. Keep in mind that the medicine may cause you to be lightheaded, unsteady on your
feet and/or constipated. Do not do things that require coordination when you are taking narcotic
Caring for Your Incision
Caring for your incision helps prevent infection. Below are steps to follow to take care of
your incision. If you have a cast, you will also be given a handout on cast care.
In most cases, a dry dressing with an ace bandage will cover your incision until you see
your doctor. The dressings should be kept dry and clean.
Do not remove your ace wrap or splint unless you've been told to do so.
To keep your dressing or cast dry when you shower, wrap a plastic bag around your hand
or arm to keep the dressing or cast dry. Then use adhesive tape to seal the edge and keep
the bag in place.
Wear loose fitting clothing that is easy to fit or slip over your cast or ace wrap. Sweat
suits or cuffed-sleeved shirts work well.
Taking your Temperature
Check your temperature daily for 1 week.
Checking your Fingers
Some of the numbness and tingling you had before surgery may still be present. This
should go away over a period of weeks. There may be some discoloration after the
Check your fingers twice a day. Be alert to changes. Watch for:
If you notice any of these signs, call your doctor.
When you are up more and use your hand and arm, you may have some swelling and soreness in
your hand. This is normal. Keep your arm raised and the swelling will decrease. Wear your
sling when you're up. Raise your arm when you're resting. Your hand should always be above
To wear the sling:
Keep your elbow low, near your waist;
Adjust the sling so that your hand is elevated across your chest - almost to the opposite
Common sense will tell you when you overdo it. Yet, too little activity can delay the return of
your strength and stamina.
Continue doing your exercises. They are needed to recover. You will most likely not be able to
move your fingers or use your hand for 3 weeks. Then you will work with the therapists to
slowly regain your strength and coordination.
You will be given special instructions about
driving a car.
when you can return to work or school. The length of time needed before you can return
to work varies, depending on your recovery and the type of work you do.
doing light or strenuous activities.
Eating & Drinking
Eat a light meal the first night you are home. Then resume your usual eating habits.
Drink at least two 8-ounce glasses of fluid your first night home.
Do not drink any alcohol for 48 hours or until you stop taking pain medicine. Alcohol does not
mix well with pain medicine and may make you sick.
When to Call the Doctor
If there is drainage from your incision. Be ready to tell what the drainage looks like and
If your incision becomes more painful, red and/or swollen.
If you notice increased swelling, numbness, tingling, or decreased warmth in your fingers.
If your temperature goes above 100.5 θF.
If your cast becomes wet and changes shape, moves or breaks.
Follow-Up Clinic Visits
You will return to see your doctor on at _____________
Depending on your surgery and healing, your doctor will have you see the therapists for
strengthening and coordination exercises. Your doctor and nurse will talk with you about
exercise at your clinic visit.
You are welcome to call anytime you have questions about your surgery.
Your doctor's name is ; the office number is
After hours and weekends, the clinic number will give you the hospital paging operator. Ask for
plastic surgery resident on-call. Leave your name and phone number with the area code. The
doctor will call you back.
Toll free number: (844) 607-4800
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 7/2015 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7808