Foot and Ankle Surgery: What to Expect
Alright, the date is set. You have talked about what you have been feeling in your feet and our doctors fully understand. There is a way to fix it, and you have already discussed all your options with our podiatric surgeons. You even have all the details of your surgery.
Great; you are now on your way to overcoming your pain and getting back on your feet! However, the level of success you will see from your procedure is determined by more than just the procedure chosen or the proficiency of your surgeon. The better prepared you are, and the more you understand the process and your obligations, the better ready you will be to recover from your surgery and heal as quickly as possible. Also, being prepared just makes the whole process less scary.
Let us take a look at what to expect, how to prepare, and what to consider before, during, and after your surgery.
Before Surgery: The Preparation
In the days leading up to your surgery, here are some essential things to keep in mind. These things will help you approach your surgery proactively and eventually accelerate your recovery:
Stock up on supplies: Getting around may be difficult for several days or even weeks after surgery. Make sure you have plenty of food, clean clothes, and other products and supplies on hand so you don’t have to work too hard to get them. Another slightly related thing to do is set up the house in such a way that all you need is in the same place or room. This will minimize movement as much as possible.
Rearrange your home as required: Cleaning up clutter, ensuring that everyday items are close at hand (rather than stuck on high shelves), installing grab bars or railings where necessary, or even moving your bed to the ground floor to eliminate risky stair travel can all help you feel more comfortable and less likely to injure yourself.
Get help: It is necessary to engage your friends and family about the procedure you are about to undergo. Ask them what they will be willing to help with, and work around it. Let them know their assistance and support will matter a lot to you. Moral support and comfort will make the experience better, so be proactive about preparing those around you for it! If possible, get a schedule together so that a spouse, children, parents, or friends are regularly nearby and able to assist with difficult tasks.
Stop smoking and avoid excessive alcohol: These habits should cease well before the date of surgery. Both can slow your circulation, which both increases the risk of post-surgical complications and lengthens the expected recovery window. Do your best to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C and antioxidants to help boost your immunity. Take in healthy proteins and bone supplements so that your body has all the nutrients it needs to rebuild itself.
The Day of Surgery: The Procedure
Obviously, specific surgical methods can differ greatly. Bunion reconstruction is not the same as, say, ankle arthroscopy. Of course, our doctors will educate you on the specifics and assist you in preparing for any special considerations. Here are some other considerations:
Avoid food and drink: Do not eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery. This step may seem trivial, but it is the most important thing you will have to do to avoid complicating the surgery. Food at any point of your alimentary canal will greatly increase the risk of nausea, vomiting, or other issues that can greatly complicate surgery. Yes, even if the surgery is happening on your foot!
Wear loose, comfy clothes: The clothes you wear on the way to your surgery are going to be the clothes you wear on your way home. Make sure they are comfy and will fit around any casts, splints, or external hardware. Dresses and loose shorts that can go over a cast and hover above it are a great choice. Also, make sure you are not exposed to the cold if your surgery will be around the winter.
Make sure you bring your documents!: We strongly recommend you bring your medical insurance card, legal ID, list of medications, and any pre-surgical test results especially if they were conducted by a different physician. Other good things to bring include extra cash, credit cards, and a small bag for personal belongings. If possible, ask a loved one to accompany you and help you take care of things when you wake up.
Have a chat with our doctors: Before the procedure begins, we will have one more talk with you to go over the procedure and address any lingering questions or concerns. We want you to be fully knowledgeable and comfortable with the procedure. You may also have some choice over your level of anesthesia depending on the procedure. Let us know of any anxieties you may have, whatever they may be! Nothing is too embarrassing or trivial. Be sure to mention any pain or discomfort so that we investigate before starting the procedure.
When can you go home?: The vast majority of our procedures are performed in-office and out-patient, meaning you will not have to be hospitalized overnight. You will spend an appropriate time in recovery, then can go home. Make sure you have a loved one ready to handle your transportation.
After Surgery: The Recovery
The length and nature of your recovery will, of course, vary depending on the location and type of procedure. Timelines will not always be the same. The condition your body is in plus how fit you are will also contribute to how fast and easy your recovery will be. But in general, here is what you can expect:
The first few days: Pain, swelling, and even bruising or discoloration are all normal in the immediate aftermath of surgery. Make sure you avoid putting weight on the repaired foot, take your prescribed medications as directed, and keep your feet elevated as much as possible. A very low-grade fever is also possible but contact us immediately if your temperature exceeds 100.5 degrees or feverish symptoms last longer than a week. It is important that you act swiftly in such a case.
Follow-up appointments: We will typically schedule a few follow-up appointments, with the first coming a few days to a week after surgery. These appointments are to check your progress, as well as perform any secondary procedures such as removing casts, stitches, or hardware. Let a loved one know you will need to go for these procedures and ask them if they will be comfortable taking you.
Strictly follow all your surgeon’s recommendations: We’ll repeat it one last time—each surgery is different. There may be varied regulations and standards defining how to keep your surgical site dry; when you can begin mild weight-bearing exercise, and even food restrictions depending on the treatment. These standards are in place to help you heal as fast and safely as possible, and you should always adhere to them—even if you think you are “ahead of schedule.” Doing too much, too fast can delay the healing process or even reverse some of the progress that has already occurred.
Physical therapy and a gradual return to full activity: Over the weeks and months following your surgery, you will slowly return to activities like lightweight bearing, driving, wearing normal shoes, and ultimately full activity. During this time, a program of physical therapy will be important. After surgery, affected muscles, tendons, and other tissues may be weakened due to both the procedure and the relative lack of activity during recovery. Proper rehab will help you rebuild that lost strength, which in turn helps prevent re-injury.
Contact Us With Any Questions!
Of course, even with all this information, you may still have many questions. That is okay! Surgery is a scary thing to go through due to the risks involved. Our team of professionals is here to help you through every step of the process, even the parts you may feel are silly. To schedule an appointment, please call us today at (949) 364-9255 or fill out our online form.