Shoulder Surgery Part 2: Day of Surgery

What to expect the day of surgery.

At the hospital, surgery happens every day, multiple times a day. For the patient, it happens once in a blue moon (for most people). Bottom line: Surgery is a big deal!


I make this point because it’s important for patients to not be afraid to speak up! If you are cold, ask for a blanket… or five blankets! If something doesn’t feel right, or you need an explanation, speak up and ask. The nurses, techs, and surgeons do this every day and it can be easy for them to forget how foreign and frightening the whole experience often feels for patients. It’s important to feel comfortable and in control.

The hospital will have you arrive at least an hour before surgery. Soon thereafter they will have you change into a gown, take your vitals, and begin an IV. Before you know it, you’re fading out. Although I was apparently awake and talking to my surgeon and anesthesiologist, I completely forgot all of it when I woke up.

Don’t be paranoid like me. The night before my surgery I had this nightmare that my surgeon was going to clip my axillary nerve (super uncommon!). It had something to do with learning way too much about it in school shortly before my surgery. Anyway, apparently I kept telling him over and over not to cut it before they started surgery (but I don’t remember any of it!) Spoiler alert: my axillary nerve is fine! Really, your surgery is going to go fine too 🙂

Before surgery you will need to fast for 24 hours and not shave, wear deodorant, lotion, jewelry, etc. Check out my Part 1 post for more general pre-op recommendations and be sure to check with your hospital in the weeks prior.

What to bring:

  • Sling/ Ultra-sling with pillow (preferably pre-fitted to your body/arm)
  • Pre-cut t-shirt (one size-too big is best – see “what to wear” post)
  • Bandeau bra for ladies, or a strapless of some sort
  • Light food, if you have food allergies (so you can get pain meds right after)
  • 1-2 small pillows to prop up your arm on the car ride home
  • A driver to pick you up-post op 🙂

What to expect after surgery:

  • You will wake up and soon be in pain, so you’ll want to eat something (they recommend crackers) and then they can give you pain medicine
  • It’s likely they will have already put the sling on (I woke up in my sling, with a huge bandage covering my shoulder
  • This will probably be within 30-60 minutes of surgery. And the surgery should take ~ 1-2 hours.
  • They’ll send you home within an hour or so, and you will need a driver to go get the car
  • I have POTS (dysautonomia) so getting up was a pretty big deal. Luckily, I had a friend there who is a trained medical professional and she helped me stand. I would have fallen to the floor otherwise, as I get very dizzy, and surgery intensifies these symptoms. If you have a blood pressure or heart condition, be extra careful standing and be sure the nurse knows (I was way too confident I would be fine. Never listen to someone on narcotics)
  • On the drive home, you may get nauseous, so be aware/cautious
  • Apparently most people sleep the whole day of surgery, but I talked, and talked, and talked. So everyone’s experience is different I suppose! But you will probably be sleepy.
  • The first couple nights are the worst. Sleeping is especially hard. I slept in a reclining chair (lazy-boy) for over a month.
  • Prepare your home before you go to the hospital the day of.

Oh my surgery day I was nervous, and I had some anxiety in the days leading up to it. There was such a huge feeling of relief for me, and I almost felt elated when I got home because this thing I had been dreading for so long was finally over… you will feel that way soon too!

Try to get some good sleep the night before, using whatever methods within doctors orders you are able. Prepare your home, wardrobe, kitchen (ie: filling the freezer with meals, buying tools), furniture, and body (get as strong as possible) in the weeks and months before the procedure, to minimize stress and ease the post-op days. Ask your physician any questions you have and see if your hospital offers tours, so you know what to expect if that is reassuring for you (I didn’t and I did fine but everyone needs different supports in place). Don’t be afraid to do whatever you need to make yourself feel as comfortable and confident in your physician’s ability to help repair your body.

See my post on the days after surgery!

Update: I am guessing you, or someone you know is having surgery and that is what lead you to my site. Please check out parts 1, & 3 plus how to make your own t-shirts on the rest of the blog! Thank you for stopping by, and best wishes on your surgery and road to recovery. You will do great and be healing before you know it.


7 thoughts on “Shoulder Surgery Part 2: Day of Surgery

  1. Pingback: Shoulder Surgery Part 1: Preparing for Surgery | Rich with Life

  2. Pingback: Shoulder Surgery Part 3: Post-Op | Rich with Life

  3. Pingback: Shoulder Surgery: What to Wear | Rich with Life

    • Becki, please don’t be! In my work I have met many patients your age and beyond who have been through similar surgeries and they have done well. If your plan with the doctor is to have the surgery then believe that you can and will do it and come out on the other side in less pain and with more function restored. Sending you hugs tonight and happy thoughts… you can do this!


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