FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What are the potential complications of the procedure? Although we do not anticipate any complications, occasionally they do occur. These can include, but are not limited to infection, wound problems, continued pain, loosening of the prosthesis, nerve injury, need for secondary surgery, and blood clots in the leg. If any of these issues occur, we will work together to resolve the problem.
How long is the hospital stay? Typically, patients are in the hospital for one or two nights after an ankle replacement surgery.
Will I have any physical therapy? A physical therapist will generally see you in the hospital to work on using crutches, a walker, or a rolling knee scooter for mobilization purposes. It may be beneficial to do some outpatient physical therapy as you start walking.
How mobile will I be when I leave? Remember, the first week you are primarily going to rest and keep the leg elevated. If you have a large number of stairs you should arrange to have someone help you or possibly sleep on the first floor of your home. It is generally at least 3 weeks before you can start walking on your ankle
What type of cast will I have when I leave the hospital? A splint is placed in surgery to immobilize the ankle and usually remains in place until the first office visit. At that time, a cast or boot will be utilized depending on any additional procedures that were required in addition to the ankle replacement.
What will my office visit routine be? We usually have the patient return to the office at 2-3 weeks following surgery. The splint is taken off, the incision is checked, and a cast or boot is placed. A removable walking boot is applied at 3-6 weeks following surgery and the patient transitions into a regular shoe around 6-12 weeks. Typical office visits are at 2 weeks, 6 weeks, 12 weeks, 6 months, 12 months, and yearly thereafter.
What is the recommended time for bedrest? At home, we want you to elevate your leg for the first week. It is safe to mobilize for eating and using the restroom, but otherwise you should elevate your leg as much as possible. Periodically, move your toes, bend your knee, and lift your leg up and down with straight leg raises to improve blood flow and to exercise your muscles. After the first week, we expect you will become more active. It is still helpful to elevate the extremity when you are relaxing after activity for the first couple months.
Should I use ice on my ankle? Ice is not necessary. You will be in a splint with thick padding underneath that will preclude any benefit that the ice would have otherwise provided. Ice can also be dangerous with your nerve block since your leg can be numb. Elevation is the most important thing to decrease swelling.
What is the best approach for bathing?
Either double garbage bags with duct tape above the knee or a cast cover protection sleeve can be used for showering. Medical supply stores sell cast covers made specifically for bathing. When using plastic bags, two may be better than one, and be sure to reinforce with tape around the leg to avoid leaks. Taking a bath is difficult and not generally recommended. Sponge bathing is a sure way to keep your cast dry and is recommended for at least the first week.
What is the estimated full time of recovery? Most of the improvement is in the first 3 months, but this is variable for each person. Frequently, improvement is seen for up to a year.
Will the ankle joint set off alarms in the airport? Sometimes. There is no documentation we can provide to avoid airport security screening. Please be polite to security agents as they have an increasingly difficult job in trying to protect us.
Are there any restrictions or changes in lifestyle? We want you to remain active. Exercise is vitally important for your overall health. Swimming, walking, cycling, and the elliptical are a few options for low-impact exercise. Running is not recommended. Remember the plastic spacer in your ankle is very small, and it is carrying your entire body weight. There are things you can avoid to protect your ankle such as: running, jumping, or carrying heavy loads. Many patients will find that a successful ankle replacement may even increase their activity level due to significant pain relief.