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After Surgery

What to expect . . .

Swelling. Swelling is to be expected after any surgery. It is difficult to specify what constitutes an abnormal amount of swelling. You can minimize swelling by staying off your feet and keeping the foot elevated. This is best accomplished by lying flat on your back with your foot propped up on a few pillows. By doing this, the foot is kept above the level of your heart and swelling is minimized.

Pain. Unfortunately, everyone experiences some degree of pain after surgery. For some this is worse than others. You will be given a prescription for pain medication before you leave the hospital. Please let the staff know if you are allergic to any medications. If you have had local anesthesia, it is important to start taking the pain medication when the anesthetic begins to wear off.

Bleeding. Bleeding is not uncommon after surgery. You may notice slight oozing or spotting through the bandages. If bleeding continues and soaks through the dressings, please call the office.

What to do . . .

  1. When you return home, you should rest. You may either sit in a chair or in bed, with the foot elevated.
  2. Do not do any excessive or unnecessary walking during the first few days after surgery. Each operation is slightly different, and you may be told specifically not to put any weight on your foot at all. Under these circumstances, you will need to use either crutches or a walker.
  3. If you are given a special shoe to use after surgery, you should not walk without it. You do not have to wear the shoe at night. You will find it easier to begin walking on your heel and to put more weight on the flat foot over the next few days. With some surgeries, however, you may also be instructed to walk only on your heel until instructed otherwise by your surgeon.
  4. Use ice over the foot for 24 hours after surgery. The small commercially available ice packs are not ideal. Instead, we recommend filling a large plastic bag with ice and propping the bag over the foot. Ice your foot for approximately 10-15 minutes every hour while you are awake. Do not ice your foot while you are asleep. Do not let the dressings get wet from the condensation on the ice bag. Placing a towel between the foot and the ice will help to prevent this.
  5. When taking your pain medication, you may develop some mild drowsiness or nausea. If these become excessive, or if you develop dizziness or a rash, stop taking the medication and call the office. To prevent nausea, it may help to have something to eat prior to taking the medication.
  6. Please note that you cannot drive or drink alcohol while taking narcotic pain medications. These include oxycodone (Percocet, Roxicet, Tylox), codeine (Tylenol #3), hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab), meperidine (Demerol) and hydromorphone (Dilaudid), among others.

What not to do . . .

  1. Do not get the bandages wet. When bathing, either take a sponge bath or hang the foot over the side of the bath. One safe technique is to get into the empty tub with your foot out of the tub, then fill the tub. Empty the tub prior to getting out. Showering is possible with commercial plastic protectors. We do not recommend using these, however, as too often they do not work properly and the bandages get wet.
  2. Do not remove your dressings, cast or splint unless you are specifically told to do so. Doing so could lead to skin problems, infection, and lack of healing.
  3. Do not put weight on your foot following surgery unless you have been explicitly told that you may do so. It is essential that you follow these directions carefully and 100% of the time. Putting weight on your foot, even just once, can jeopardize healing and the results of surgery. If you have questions regarding your weight-bearing status, please call the office.

When to call the office . . .

Please call your surgeon’s office if any of the following occur:

  • You have continual bleeding that soaks through the dressing.
  • You have fever over 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit (38.6 degrees Celsius).
  • There is redness, a foul odor, or white drainage associated with your wound.
  • Your toes become pale, cool, or feel numb.
  • You have any unanswered questions regarding surgery.

Please understand that the post-operative course varies from patient to patient, and these are meant only as guidelines to a smooth recovery. These instructions may not cover all aspects of your post-operative care and recovery. Please feel free to call the office if you have further questions.