Ankle replacement surgery is a major operation that replaces a damaged ankle joint with an artificial joint. This surgery is life-changing for those with chronic ankle pain and mobility limitations from conditions such as ankle arthritis. Not every individual with ankle arthritis is right for the procedure, but if you are found by a foot and ankle surgeon to be a good candidate, you should seriously consider an ankle replacement.
As with any surgery, there is a recovery period postoperatively that patients need to undergo. An ankle replacement can now be done using a minimally invasive technique, which means recovery is generally faster and easier. Below we have a recovery guide for this specific procedure.
Preparation should begin before the scheduled surgery, as how you prepare can impact your comfort and safety afterward. It is advised that patients prepare their homes for their return, making sure to clear pathways and remove any hazards that can lead to tripping or falling. Consider installing grab bars in the bathroom and handrails on the stairs.
Next, you are going to need someone to take you home after the surgery. You will not be in the right condition to drive yourself or take transportation alone, so assign a person whom you trust to be with you on the day of the surgery, and if possible, for the first week after surgery. You may want to hire a home health aide for this purpose who can also help with meal preparation and errands.
Recovery begins as soon as you wake from surgery. In most cases, the hospital or the surgery center where you have your ankle replacement surgery will provide you with crutches before you leave. The healthcare team will also teach you how to use the crutches properly and give you instructions on how much weight you can put on your foot. Your ankle will be immobilized with a plaster cast to prevent any movement that can hinder healing. This cast is typically worn for a few weeks before it is removed and replaced with a removable cast or brace. Your foot and ankle surgeon will provide specific instructions on how long you need to wear the cast or brace and how to care for it.
While you are at home, rest and keep your foot elevated most of the time to reduce pain and swelling. Avoid putting weight on your affected foot during the first week. Take your pain medication as prescribed to make your recovery more comfortable. Your healthcare team will teach you light exercises you can do to prevent stiffness and keep the muscles that support your ankle strong. Do them regularly as directed, attend all scheduled sessions, and follow your physical therapist’s recommendations.
As you move through the stages of your physical therapy program, you will become stronger and more flexible, and your ankle’s range of motion will greatly improve. Eventually, you will regain full function. Make sure to follow your doctor’s specific instructions for weight-bearing. They will tell you when it’s safe to put full weight on your foot. Follow these instructions carefully to avoid damaging the new joint.
You need a healthy diet for your body to have all the nutrients it needs to recover. Choose nutrient-rich foods that support healing, such as lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and avoid foods that can cause inflammation. Also, keep hydrated by drinking six to eight glasses of water daily.
Complications from ankle replacement surgery are rare but can include infection, blood clots, nerve damage, and implant failure. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any signs of complications, such as bleeding through your dressing, a yellowish discharge from the incision site, a fever of over 101°F, excessive pain or swelling, increasing redness around the surgical site, or if you feel instability in your ankle.
All in all, recovery from ankle replacement surgery requires careful planning, rest, and rehabilitation. By following your doctor’s instructions and attending all physical therapy sessions, you can have a faster recovery and return to your normal activities sooner.
Ankle Replacement Surgeon in RI and MA
One of our highly skilled board-certified podiatric surgeons at the Foot & Ankle Institute of New England can determine if it is time for you to have ankle replacement surgery. We can provide you with the most advanced treatments for your ankle arthritis. Our newer, custom-made implants leave you with a natural feeling in your ankle.