Preparing For Elbow Replacement Surgery

If you and your surgeon decide that total elbow replacement is right for you, a date will be scheduled for your surgery. Several things may be necessary to prepare for surgery. For example, your surgeon might ask you to have a physical examination by your primary care physician. This will help to ensure that other health problems you may have, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, will be identified and treated before surgery.  

Your doctor may suggest that you lose weight and initiate an exercise program. If you smoke, be sure to speak with your doctor about it, as smoking can dangerously increase surgical risks and slow down the healing process.

You should also finish any dental work that may be underway to prevent germs in your mouth from entering the bloodstream and infecting the joint. It is likely that you will need blood during elbow surgery, and your surgeon may place an order with the blood bank in case a transfusion is needed. If you prefer, or if your surgeon feels it is needed, you may want to donate your own blood ahead of time to reduce the risk of your body reacting to the blood transfusion.

About four weeks before surgery

  • Become familiar with your elbow anatomy and elbow replacement surgery
    You may find it helpful to understand how your elbow works and learn about elbow replacement surgery. Read What Is Causing My Elbow Pain?
  • Prepare questions to ask your doctor
    As your surgeon gives you instructions on how to prepare for surgery, take notes and refer to them once you are home.

About three weeks before surgery

  • Contact friends/family for support
    You may need help with bathing, using the toilet, meals, laundry, housework, shopping, and going to your doctor's office. Contact family members or friends ahead of time to make the necessary arrangements. If you don't have someone to help you at home, ask your doctor about home caregivers. The Arthritis Foundation also has a support network that can provide emotional support. You can contact your local chapter or go to the Arthritis Foundation Web site ( for more information.
  • Get your home ready for your recovery
    • Store frequently used items, such as cleaning supplies and canned foods, in easy-to-reach cabinets. Avoid very high or very low shelves as these may require you to reach or pull.
    • Make and freeze meals or stock up on frozen dinners before surgery so that meal preparation is easier and requires less effort. You should plan on making enough meals for one week or so.
    • Check the safety of your home to prevent falls or tripping. Move long electrical and telephone cords against the wall, remove rugs, and place a non-skid mat in your bathtub.

About two weeks before surgery

  • Avoid anti-inflammatory medications
    Your surgeon may not want you to take any aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications  for a couple of weeks before surgery. You may be able to take medicines with acetaminophen. Be sure to discuss this with your surgeon.
  • Purchase or borrow the special equipment your surgeon recommends
    This may include a special brace and small devices such as a grabber. You can find these items at most hospital supply sections of large drug stores or in mail order catalogs from department stores. Practice using the items at home.

About one week before surgery

  • Write down all of the medication you take, the dose, and how often
    You will want to take this list with you when you pre-admit at the hospital.
  • You may need to preregister at the hospital
    YYou may be admitted to the hospital or clinic typically three to nine days before your surgery. Depending on the country you live in preparations such as insurance verification, lab work, X-rays, and electrocardiogram (EKG) may be required. Check with your surgeon to see what needs to be done in your case. If you are currently taking any medicines bring a list which includes name(s), dose(s), and how often you take the medication.
  • Manage finances
    You may want to balance your checkbook, pay bills, make arrangements to board pets, and stop the delivery of your newspaper.
  • Contact local supermarkets and pharmacies
    Call supermarkets and pharmacies to see if they provide delivery services and if they charge a fee. This will make it easier to avoid having to lift heavy grocery bags.
  • Go to the supermarket
    Make a list of the items you may need once you return from the hospital, and purchase these items or arrange for the supermarket to deliver them to your home.

Week of surgery

  • Pack for the hospital
    Below is a list of things you may want to bring with you to the hospital in preparation for your surgery. We recommend that you leave your personal belongings with family members until after surgery or in the assigned room that you will return to after surgery.
    • Personal grooming items such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, eyeglasses/contacts, comb, deodorant, shaving cream/electric razor, shampoo, lotion, undergarments, and a robe
    • Slippers or flat rubber-soled shoes for walking in the hallways
    • Loose fitting clothing and a shirt that opens in the front for your trip home
    • Medications you are currently taking. You should also write down your medication information for the hospital staff; be sure to include the name, strength, and how often you take the medication. Tell your doctors and the nursing staff about any allergies you might have  
    • If you use a breathing exerciser (IBE), be sure to bring it with you from home, as you will probably need this right after surgery; check with your surgeon about this
    • Leave jewelry, credit cards, car and house keys, checkbooks, and items of personal value at home; bring only enough pocket money for items such as newspapers, magazines, etc.

Day before surgery

  • Don't eat or drink anything after midnight
    Eating or drinking after midnight will most likely not be allowed by your surgeon (not even water) the night before your surgery. Check with your physician about this. Your anesthesiologist may prescribe a medication for you to take the evening before surgery.
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Talk to your surgeon about whether joint replacement or another treatment is right for you and the risks of the procedure, including the risk of implant wear, loosening or failure, and pain, swelling and infection. Zimmer Biomet does not practice medicine; only a surgeon can answer your questions regarding your individual symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.