At North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute, we know that preparing upcoming foot surgery, and what comes after it, can be an unsettling or even scary experience. That’s why we believe so strongly in making sure you understand the process and risks, and are fully prepared to handle at-home recovery steps necessary for the healing process.
Although we always look to conservative solutions first, sometimes surgery is required to fully relieve your pain and return you to full health. Obviously, not all surgeries are the same, even among a single condition. Your bunion surgery, for example, may require a different recovery program than someone else’s, to say nothing of correction for hammertoes, flat feet, ankle instability, fractured heels, crush injuries, and more. However, there are a number of broad, common guidelines that will help you provide quality care for your healing feet.
Right after Surgery
Although certain procedures may require hospitalization, most of our operations are performed out-patient and allow you to go home the same day. The foot will be protected by a bulky dressing and a cast or walking boot. In most cases you won’t be allowed to put any weight on your foot for at least the first few days, though there are exceptions.
Before you leave, you’ll be given detailed instructions for post-operative care. Read them carefully. Have a loved one read them carefully. Following these instructions is the single most critical component of a successful recovery.
The Early Days
You’ll want to give your feet as much rest as possible. Taking your prescribed medications and elevating the foot above chest level while sitting or lying will help you control the pain and swelling. Take your meds on schedule before the pain hits—it’s much easier to prevent it than rein it back in. We may also approve the use of ice packs, depending on your situation.
Keep your bandages clean and dry; wet bandages are a significant infection risk. We’ll set you up with a cast protector for bathing—don’t take matters into your own hands with leaky trash bags!
In most cases, you’ll get your first check-up 7-10 days after surgery, with stitches coming out after about two weeks or so. If you develop feverish symptoms, chills, or intense pain that doesn’t go away with your prescribed medication, give us a call right away. These may indicate surgical complications that need to be addressed immediately.
Eventually, the cast and stitches come out, although you may still need to use crutches or wear a special shoe or boot for a few more weeks.
During this period, following your doctor’s instructions carefully is critically important. Even if your pain has settled and you’re cleared for a return to light weight-bearing activity, don’t try to do too much too soon. For example, you may find that you can operate the pedals of your car under normal circumstances, but if you can’t safely slam the brakes, you shouldn’t be on the road. Even if walking is approved as comfort allows, the more you can stay off your feet and rest, the quicker you will heal.
In the most ordinary cases, it takes about 2-3 months in total before all casts and walking aids come off and you’re back to more-or-less ordinary activity. It may take several more months after that for any related soreness or swelling to recede entirely.
We know that no one truly looks forward to surgery—either the procedure itself or the lengthy recovery phase. However, we also know how finally achieving lasting relief from chronic and painful foot conditions has changed the lives of our patients for the better. Talk with Dr. Keith McSpadden to see if foot surgery is right for you. You can call our office for an appointment at 512-593-2949.