Ask the Doctor
Questions about kidney disease? Risk factors? Signs and symptoms? Are you concerned about yourself, a friend or family member? Ask Dr. Spry.
You use your hands to complete a wide range of activities every day, like brushing your teeth, preparing food, and participating in leisure activities. This requires fine motor control, dexterity, grip strength, and coordination. These hand functions can be affected after surgery for a variety of reasons, including a general decline in strength or fluid retention causing your hands to swell. It is important to address these issues both before and after surgery so you can be as functional and independent as possible.
Being ill and waiting for an organ transplant can affect your overall hand function. It is important to keep your hands strong before having surgery, which will make it easier for you to regain function after surgery. After a transplant surgery there are many parts to recovery. While you work on bigger parts, like getting out of bed for the first time and walking, or regaining your overall strength and endurance, it is easy to overlook some of the smaller parts, such as your hands. It is very important to take care of your hands both pre and post-operatively.
It is not uncommon to retain fluid after an invasive surgery related to kidney failure, especially if you have been immobilized for a period of time. It is also possible to have swelling before surgery due to poor circulation, poor nutrition, or vascular problems. The hands and fingers often become swollen, making it harder to bend the joints and difficult to complete fine motor tasks, such as holding a fork or opening a tube of toothpaste. The following are ways to help reduce swelling, also known as edema, in the hands and fingers:
Keeping your hands strong prior to surgery will make this easier to regain your strength post-operatively. It is important to keep your hands strong so you can be functional and complete simple daily tasks, like opening a jar or turning a door knob. There are a variety of tools available to help strengthen your hands, including hand grippers, light weights, squeeze balls, and theraputty. Theraputty is a resistive putty, ranging in colors based on the level of resistance. It may be provided by a healthcare professional, such as an occupational therapist, or is available to purchase online. If theraputty is not available, you can use Silly Putty or Play-Doh. The following are example of exercises to help strengthen your hands using putty:
Hand grippers are another great way to help strengthen your fingers and hands. They generally require more strength, so it is best to begin with squeeze balls or theraputty before using a hand gripper. There are a variety of hand grippers and all range in level of resistance. Below are examples are two common types: a solid gripper to be used with the whole hand, and a digit gripper to be used by individual fingers. These may be provided by a healthcare professional, or may be available at a local sporting goods store.
Regardless of what tool you may use to help strengthen your hands, the important thing to remember is to keep your hands moving and active both before and after surgery so you can be as independent and functional as possible!