I Had Foot or Ankle Surgery, Now What? Post

Recently I wrote a blog on pre-operative tips before having foot and ankle surgery, and I got many requests to write about what to do after foot surgery. These are general tips, and different procedures may require more individualized instructions. Make sure your podiatrist gives you instructions for your specific needs. Your actions the first 48-72 hours after surgery are critical to your healing and comfort.


Take all prescriptions as directed. Do not use any other medications including aspirin, Tylenol, or Ibuprofen unless you have consulted your podiatrist first. Most patients will be given pain medication and antibiotics to help prevent infection. Pain medications may cause constipation and you may want to discuss taking a stool softener with your doctor. Do not drive or use dangerous equipment while taking pain medication. Finish all antibiotics given as directed.


Depending on what procedure you have, your podiatrist will tell you to stay off your foot for at least 48-72 hours following surgery. You should limit your walking to just the bathroom during this time. Some procedures require you to be non-weight bearing on crutches. This is extremely important and means no weight on the foot at all, sometimes not even resting the foot on the floor while not walking.


The more you keep your foot elevated the less pain and swelling you will have. If not elevated, you may feel throbbing pain and the bandages may feel tight. Elevation above the heart is key. While lying down place 2 pillows under the foot; this is usually enough to get the foot above the heart. It is important to keep your foot or ankle elevated whenever you are not on it. If you can keep it elevated for more than 48-72 hours you should do so.

Post-Op Shoe/Boot

Always wear the post-op shoe or boot that is dispensed to you whenever you are walking. Walking without the shoe/boot will cause damage to the surgical site and will cause an increase in pain, and the procedure may not heal correctly.

Keep Bandages Clean and Dry

The bandages are in place for a purpose and will help to hold the surgical correction in place so it can heal. If you get the bandages wet, your infection chances increase. To help keep the bandages dry, get a waterproof cast protector usually available from your podiatrists office. If your podiatrists office does not carry them, any medical supply house will have them. Trash bags with tape do not work, so please do not use them. The cast protector will fit over your shoe or boot and should be used every time you bathe. Never remove the bandage without contacting your doctors office.


Ice should be used for 48-72 hours following your procedure. If using re-usable ice packs have two so one can be freezing while the other is being used. Ice should be place on the foot or ankle for 20-30 minutes per hour during waking hours only. You do not have to use it during the middle of the night. Some podiatry offices use cold machines which work on their own, and you will be shown how to use it prior to or directly after surgery. Ice will help reduce pain and swelling.


It is normal to notice some blood on the bandage, so do not become alarmed if you see a small amount. Free-flowing blood is not normal, and you should contact your surgeons office immediately.

Feeling Dizzy

It is normal to feel dizzy or lightheaded the first few days following surgery. If possible, use assistance when walking. If you have been lying down, sit up slowly and remain sitting with your feet over the edge of the bed for at least one minute before standing.


The local anesthetic used during the surgery may last up to 48 hours. This means you may not feel anything or be able to move your toes for this time period. The numbness may make it hard to feel the effects of not following the directions. If you have not elevated your foot above your heart, not walked only to the bathroom, not used cold to minimize swelling, or not taken your medication as prescribed, you may have more discomfort than anticipated once the anesthetic has worn off.


You will get a certain amount of swelling following any foot or ankle surgery. Elevation above the heart will help reduce this. If the bandage or cast feels too tight, touch the end of your toes to see if they blanch white then pink within a few seconds. If so, then this is normal. If it takes longer for the normal color to return or a blue color is noted, call your doctors office immediately.

Prevent Blood Clots

Unless you are in a cast, it is good to move your foot at your ankle for a few minutes each hour. If you feel severe pain to the back of the leg, knee, or upper leg with redness and heat call your surgeons office right away.


It is normal to run a low-grade fever for up to 72 hours following surgery. If the fever persists or exceeds 100 degrees, call your doctors office.

Keep all Appointments

It is essential to keep all follow up appointments with your podiatrist to ensure you are healing properly. Redressing may be performed to your foot or ankle.

These are general tips to follow. Your foot and ankle surgeon will likely give you his or her own written instructions. If you have any questions at any time, you should contact your doctor. As Dr. Bowman always tells his patients, no question is too stupid to ask.

Dr. Bowman at Houston Foot Specialists can be reached through our contact page or by calling 713-467-8886.

Photo Credit: Sippakorn via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Category: Surgery

Tags: ankle pain, Ankle Surgery, foot pain, Foot Surgery