Ankle Arthroscopy: What to Expect at Home

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Your Recovery

Arthroscopy is a way to find problems and do surgery inside a joint without making a large cut (incision). Your doctor put a lighted tube with a tiny camera—called an arthroscope, or scope—and surgical tools through small incisions in your ankle.

You will feel tired for several days. Your ankle and leg will be swollen, and you may notice that your skin is a different colour near the cuts (incisions). This is normal and will start to go away in a few days. Keeping your leg higher than your heart will help the swelling and pain.

Your recovery will depend on what kind of surgery you had. You may have to limit your activity until your ankle strength and movement return to normal. You will also need to do regular physical rehabilitation (rehab) exercises.

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. Getting enough sleep will help you recover. Use pillows to raise your ankle and leg above the level of your heart.
  • Try to walk each day, as soon as your doctor says you can. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
  • You may have a cast, a brace, or a boot on your ankle and leg. If you have a brace or boot, your doctor will tell you when to wear it and when to take it off.
  • If you have a desk job, you may be able to return to work a few days after the surgery. If you lift things or stand or walk a lot at work, it may be 1 to 2 months before you can return.
  • Your doctor will tell you how often and how much you can move your ankle and leg.
  • You can take a shower 48 to 72 hours after surgery and clean the cuts (incisions) with regular soap and water. Do not take a bath or soak your ankle until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.

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.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, unless your doctor tells you not to.
  • You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. You may want to take a fibre supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.

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.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • 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 you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain 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 have a dressing over your incisions, keep it clean and dry. You may remove it 48 to 72 hours after the surgery.
  • If your incisions are open to the air, keep the areas clean and dry.
  • If you have strips of tape on the incisions, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.

Exercise

  • Move your toes as much as your bandages allow.
  • Depending on why you had the surgery, you may have to do ankle and leg exercises. Your doctor or physiotherapist will give you exercises as part of a rehabilitation program.
  • Stop any activity that causes sharp pain. Talk to your doctor or physiotherapist about what sports or other exercise you can do.

Ice

  • To reduce swelling and pain, put ice or a cold pack on your ankle for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Do this every 1 to 2 hours. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

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:

  • Your foot or toes are numb or tingling.
  • Your foot is cool or pale, or it changes colour.
  • You have signs of a blood clot, such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
  • You are sick to your stomach or cannot keep fluids down.
  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incisions come open.
  • Bright red blood soaks through a large dressing or bandage over your incisions.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incisions.
    • Pus draining from the incisions.
    • A fever.

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

  • You do not have a bowel movement after taking a laxative.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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Current as of: May 23, 2016