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What Precautions do I Need to Take After Ankle Surgery?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Thanks to modern medical advancements, most patients who need ankle surgery are able to make quick, near full recoveries by following their doctors' instructions and taking special precautions after they leave the hospital. A few precautions are universal no matter what type of surgery a patient has, such as keeping dressings or splints clean and dry, caring for surgical wounds to prevent infection, and taking painkillers and antibiotics exactly how they are prescribed. In addition, it is essential to begin light exercises once the doctor determines the injury has sufficiently healed in order to provide the best chances of a complete recovery. Other important tips and advice will be provided by your surgeon, primary physician, or physical therapist after ankle surgery to ensure good results.

Depending on the type of surgery performed and the preferences of the medical team, you may be fitted with a hard plaster cast, a splint, or a sterile wrap after ankle surgery. Protective dressings need to stay dry, so you might want to bathe with your leg out of the water or wrap the foot in plastic wrap before showering. You may also be given crutches and instructed on how to use them properly after ankle surgery. It is important to avoid bearing any weight on the ankle until the doctor says it is safe to do so, which may mean using crutches for up to six weeks.

Pain medications are usually prescribed after ankle surgery to help manage symptoms during the day and while sleeping. You may also be given oral or topical antibiotics to help prevent infection at the surgical site. In order to achieve maximum results and avoid overdoses, you should follow dosing information on your prescription bottles exactly. Most patients are told to take painkillers for about seven days and antibiotics for about two weeks after ankle surgery. If pain persists or infection occurs despite using the drugs, the doctor may switch your medications.

Perhaps the most important precaution to take after ankle surgery is knowing when and how to start using the ankle again. In most cases, a doctor will make the call on when it is safe to begin exercising during a follow-up physical exam. He or she may suggest exercises that can be performed at home or recommend a licensed physical therapist. Home activities may include taking short walks without using crutches and raising, lowering, and rotating the ankle in repetitions while sitting. At a physical therapy center, a specialist may have you stretch, swim, walk on a treadmill, or engage in other strengthening and flexibility exercises.

Patience and dedication are key to a successful recovery. You can prevent setbacks by realizing your limitations during the healing phase and not trying to do too much. Your doctor and physical therapist will help you determine when you can safely return to normal activities.

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Discussion Comments

By Spotiche5 — On Sep 17, 2014

@heavanet- I agree with you completely. I have a friend who had ankle surgery, and he felt really good in just a few short days after the procedure. Since he wasn't in a lot of pain, he ignored his doctor's orders about not taking off his cast and staying off his ankle. He ended up having to have a revision procedure, but only after a long lecture from his doctor!

By Heavanet — On Sep 16, 2014

If you are having ankle surgery, do yourself a favor and follow what your doctor tells you to do down to the last detail. This includes getting plenty of rest and following up with him or a physical therapist as you are instructed to do.

I know that advancements have been made in foot and ankle surgery, but ankle surgery recovery is still challenging and sometimes difficult. Not following doctor's orders will only make the situation worse, and may land you back in the operating room if you do things to slow down or compromise the healing process.

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