What to Expect After Your Total Ankle Replacement

Is a total ankle replacement in your near future? Your ankle pain has likely kept you from engaging in your favorite activities, and now you want your quality of life back. Learn about the recovery period after your surgery.

If you’re scheduled for a total ankle replacement, you’re probably wondering how long you’ll be off your feet, what you’ll need to do to take care of the surgical site, and how long total recovery takes.  

Any operation on your feet or toes requires a change in your upcoming schedule because you won’t be very mobile for a while.  

Our board-certified podiatric physicians at Platte River Foot & Ankle Surgeons improve your quality of life by enabling you to move freely again once you recover from a total ankle replacement.  

You’re having ankle replacement done because of severe, disabling pain and/or swelling. You likely have osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or trauma-induced arthritis from a motor vehicle accident or sports injury.  

After your recovery period, you’ll know that having the operation was worth the time you spent off your feet. You’ll be able to enjoy hobbies and activities you may not have been able to do for some time. Modern ankle implants restore your ankle structure and require less bone tissue removal than in years past.  

You know that total ankle replacement requires recovery time. It helps to know how recovery proceeds after the operation. Following is a brief outline of what to expect after total ankle replacement.  

The first weeks after total ankle replacement 

You’ll have crutches or a knee scooter and/or a walker when you leave the hospital. You won’t be able to bear weight on the leg for about four weeks

You need to rest in a place at home where the things you need such as your phone, water bottle, medication and other necessities are within easy reach, whether it’s a recliner or a bed. We provide detailed post-op instructions in writing. Keep them with you. 

It’s important to keep your foot elevated above your heart almost all of the time for the first two weeks. Place pillows under your calf muscle and foot. This eases swelling. If the foot isn’t elevated after surgery, complications can ensue.  

Use ice for 20 minutes frequently throughout the day. You’ll also likely wear compression stockings most of the day for the first two or three weeks to help prevent blood clots.  

You need to move your leg while you’re off your feet to keep your circulation going and prevent clots. We explain the exercises and provide written instructions and pictures.  

You also need to keep your foot completely clean and dry until your doctor tells you it’s OK to get it wet. You can purchase a plastic sleeve for your leg that has a tight seal, but even then, it’s best to keep the leg out of the water. A handheld showerhead and a shower bench makes bathing easier.  

Otherwise, take sponge baths. When you get the green light to take a shower, just let the water run over the surgical site; don’t wash it with a washcloth yet. 

After surgery, you’ll wear a cast or a splint with room in it to accommodate swelling. You also have a bandage on the wound. We give you instructions on changing the dressing.  

You’ll have a follow-up visit a week or two after surgery to have your doctor remove your stitches. We place you in a removable boot; take it off when you do exercises, sleep, and shower. You should still keep your leg elevated more than half of the time.  

One month after total ankle replacement

At the 4-6 week mark, you can start to put some weight on the foot while wearing the boot. You’ll start physical therapy to help you strengthen the muscles around your ankle and regain range of motion. Doing the exercises as provided helps you regain normal ankle movement.  

Two months after total ankle replacement 

About eight weeks after surgery, you may be able to forgo the boot and start wearing shoes with good support such as athletic shoes. Most patients can drive at eight weeks post-surgery; some patients are able to drive after six weeks.  

Three to six months and beyond after total ankle replacement 

Recovery from total ankle replacement normally takes 3-to-6 months, but it can take 6-12 months for your ankle to feel “normal.”  

Call Platte River Foot & Ankle Surgeons or request an appointment through our online portal for all of your foot and ankle needs. We get you back on your feet again.

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