Published: Sept. 28, 2009
Updated: Nov. 11, 2010
To ease into your at-home routine and be prepared for what to expect after ankle replacement surgery, please review the following information with your family or care provider.
During the first two weeks after surgery, rest and keep the leg elevated to reduce swelling. Keep your ankle above your heart level or your toes above your nose. This will help decrease the amount of pain you experience.
Get up once an hour during the day to go to the bathroom, get something to eat, etc. The movement makes you breathe deeply and increases circulation in your leg. Remember, you cannot walk on the cast.
You do not have to stay in bed to keep your ankle elevated. Put your foot on the end of the sofa, desk, or table -- anywhere to keep your toes above your nose. If you keep your leg down, your ankle will swell and you may need to have the cast cut off.
Your ankle will be in a cast to protect the surgical wound. You should not try and remove the cast or any dressings unless directed to do so by your doctor.
Place a pillow below your operated ankle to avoid sores from forming on the heel bone.
Use your pain medication to stay comfortable, but you can expect to have some discomfort even with the use of medication.
You may have been discharged with a postoperative drain in place. You will be given instructions on how and when to remove the drain, usually on the second or third postoperative day.
You may also have a pain catheter that goes behind the knee or hip to help control your pain. The catheter is usually removed on the third postoperative day; we will provide instructions as to when to remove the catheter.
You can shower four to five days after surgery, making sure to keep your cast dry. This is best accomplished with the use of commercial cast bags or trash bags secured around your upper leg with tape. If the cast does get wet, then you will need to get your cast changed.
Even though you will be in a cast, you should not put weight on your ankle. Continue to use a walker, crutches, or kneeling roller aid until you are instructed by your doctor to start putting weight on your ankle.
Always go up steps with your strong leg first, followed by the operated leg, then the assist device. To go down, use the assist device first, then the operated leg, then the strong leg. Remember to use the railing if one is available to you.
You can resume driving at eight weeks after surgery but not before.
You can ride in a car as long as you stop at least every two hours to get out, stretch, and move around. You must elevate the leg while riding in the car for the first few weeks after surgery.
When not moving around, keep your leg elevated as much as possible to avoid swelling. During the first two weeks after surgery, keep your foot elevated above your heart or your toes above your nose to help reduce the swelling in your ankle and significantly decrease pain.
You can resume a normal diet.
Other than wiggling your toes, there are no exercises that you need to be doing while your leg is in a cast. Once you are out of the cast and in a walking boot, we will give you exercises to strengthen the ankle.
Once you are out of the walking boot, continue to do range-of-motion exercises. If all of your wounds are healed, you can begin swimming in a pool. You can walk as tolerated.
You can return to playing golf four to five months after your surgery. Remember, you can’t play tennis or run on your ankle replacement.
Remember not to put any weight on the ankle until you are instructed to do so. Continue to use the walker, crutches, or kneeling roller aid, and toe touch for balance.