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Discharge Instructions for Ankle Surgery

You had ankle surgery. This surgery is performed for a variety of reasons. You and your doctor discussed your condition and the surgery before the procedure. Here are instructions that will help you care for your ankle when you are at home.


  • Plan to stay on the first floor of your home as much as possible for the first week or two after the surgery.

  • Arrange your household to keep the items you need handy.

  • Remove electrical cords, throw rugs, and anything else that may cause you to fall.

  • Use nonslip bath mats, grab bars, an elevated toilet seat, and a shower chair in your bathroom.

  • Use a cane, crutches, a walker, or handrails until your balance, flexibility, and strength improve. And remember to ask for help from others when you need it.

  • Free up your hands so that you can use them to keep balance. Do this by using a fanny pack, apron, or pockets to carry things.

  • Follow the weight-bearing instructions given to you by your doctor. He or she will tell you how much weight you are—or are not—allowed to put on your ankle.

  • Do all exercises you learned in the hospital, as instructed by your doctor.

  • Don’t drive until your doctor says it’s OK. And never drive if you are taking opioid pain medicine.

  • Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding care for your dressing, splint, or cast. A supportive dressing, splint, or cast may be applied after surgery to protect your ankle as it heals.

Home care

  • Avoid soaking your ankle in water until your incisions are completely closed and dried.

  • Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding showering. He or she will tell you when you can begin showering again. Then shower as needed. Carefully cover your ankle with plastic to keep the dressing, splint, or cast dry. To avoid falling while showering, sit on a shower stool or chair.

  • Use an ice pack or bag of frozen peas—or something similar—wrapped in a thin towel to reduce the swelling. Keep the foot elevated. Apply the ice pack for 20 minutes; then remove it for 20 minutes. Repeat as needed.

  • Take pain medicine as directed.

  • Sleep with 2 pillows under your knee and ankle. Keep your ankle elevated above the level of your heart when sitting in a chair or on the couch.


When to seek medical attention

Call 911 right away if you have any of the following:

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Painful calf that is tender and warm to the touch

Otherwise, call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • An ankle splint, cast, or dressing that has become wet

  • Sensation that the splint or cast is becoming tighter, especially if you have pain with movement of your toes, numbness or tingling, or a sudden increase in pain 

  • Swelling in the foot, ankle or calf that is not relieved by elevating the foot

  • Fever above 100.4°F (or 38°C) or shaking chills

  • Increased pain with or without activity

  • Drainage, redness, or warmth at the incision

  • Opening of the incision


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