Ankle Fusion: What to Expect at Home

Skip to the navigation

Your Recovery

You had ankle fusion surgery to treat a painful, unstable ankle. When you leave the hospital, you will wear a cast or walking boot. And you will use crutches or a walker to keep your weight off your ankle.

After surgery, you can expect your ankle to feel stiff and sore around the area where your doctor made the cut (incision). Your doctor will give you medicine for the pain.

Your doctor may give you specific instructions on when you can do your normal activities again, such as driving and going back to work.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired.
  • Avoid putting weight on your ankle until your doctor says it is okay.
  • You may shower 24 to 48 hours after surgery, if your doctor okays it. When you shower, keep your dressing and incisions dry. If you have a cast, tape a sheet of plastic to cover it so that it does not get wet. It may help to sit on a shower stool.
  • If you have a removable splint, ask your doctor if it is okay to take it off to bathe. Your doctor may want you to keep it on as much as possible. Be careful not to put the splint on too tight.
  • You will probably need to take at least 2 to 4 weeks off from work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

Incision care

  • If you do not have a cast, wash the incision daily with warm, soapy water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. They can slow healing.
  • If you have strips of tape on the incision, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • If you had stitches, your doctor will tell you when to come back to have them removed.

Exercise

  • Ankle rehabilitation is a series of exercises you do after your surgery. This helps you improve your ankle's range of motion and strength. You will work with your doctor and physiotherapist to plan this exercise program. To get the best results, you need to do the exercises correctly and as often and as long as your doctor tells you.

Ice and elevation

  • Prop up the sore leg on a pillow when you ice it or anytime you sit or lie down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.

Other instructions

  • You will need to use crutches or a walker after surgery for about 6 to 8 weeks. Your doctor will tell you when you can put weight on the ankle. It may help to use a backpack or wear clothes with a lot of pockets to carry items.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter N825 in the search box to learn more about "Ankle Fusion: What to Expect at Home".