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Many conditions affecting the foot can produce discomfort, which can limit mobility, therefore your feet need to be strong and healthy. The foot is a complicated part of the anatomy and consists of 26 bones, 33 joints and numerous tendons, ligaments and muscles. Sometimes the structure and mechanics of your feet or ankles change (for a number of reasons) and surgery may be required to address these. Surgery is usually only considered when all conservative measures have been exhausted.

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The majority of foot surgery is performed under general anaesthetic. However, a local anaesthetic may be used in conjunction with a sedative and the anaesthetist will discuss this with you before surgery. A local anaesthetic block will be administered; this is to numb the area and help with pain relief immediately following the procedure. The feeling of numbness may last between 12 to 24 hours following your operation and is normal.

When you arrive back on the ward from theatre, you will either have a padded bandage or plaster of paris cast. Your operated leg will be elevated either on pillows or on a special frame. It is important to keep your leg elevated in order to reduce bleeding, swelling and pain. As with all surgical incisions, the bandage/cast and stitches or clips are usually removed around 14 days later.

Check your foot. It is normal to have a degree of bruising following surgery. Contact a member of the foot and ankle team immediately if you experience worsening pins and needles, persisting numbness or the foot/toes become excessively swollen. If you are unable to contact a member of the foot and ankle team, please call the ward or your General Practitioner.

Post-operative care

  • For the first two weeks following surgery, elevate your operated limb above heart level. If you have previous or existing problems with your back or hip(s), elevate to just above your groin. Get up for five minutes out of every hour to do necessary tasks, for example, going to the toilet then ELEVATE your limb.
  • A post-operative anti-embolism stocking (provided by the ward) should be worn on the un-operated limb until you are fully mobile. This will help reduce the risk of blood clots following surgery. Wriggling your toes, massaging your calves and regular movements of your lower limbs (as able) will help maintain healthy circulation during periods of reduced mobility.
  • All patients in cast are prescribed blood thinning injections to reduce the risks of developing clots.
  • Your body will tell you if you have overdone things – rest and elevate your foot/feet as this will help to reduce painful swelling and improve circulation, thus promoting wound healing.

If you have foot surgery, remember the healing process:

  • 3 months - fair
  • 6 months - good
  • 12 months - regain a feeling of normality

What can I expect after a Foot and Ankle Surgery?

Foot and ankle surgery is performed to reduce pain, improve deformity and increase function and not for cosmetic purposes. Patients often ask if both feet can be operated on at the same time. Many factors have to be considered. Your surgeon will advise you whether or not surgery to both feet is an appropriate option. Each individual is unique and every procedure is different.

Are there any major risks with Foot and Ankle Surgery?

  • Infection As with all invasive procedures there is the risk of infection, more so in those patients who are diabetic, suffer from rheumatoid disorders or smoke.
  • Scarring Any type of surgery will leave a scar, occasionally this will be painful and inflamed.
  • Nerve damage Results in numbness and tingling. This is often as a result of nerve bruising or injury during surgery. Such damage is seldom permanent and the sensation usually returns over a period of time.
  • Failure of the bone to unite This may occur in operations where the bone is fused. Some people heal slower than others and those who smoke are at a greater risk of this occurring. The surgeon may decide not to perform surgery unless you refrain from smoking.

You should contact us if you notice the following:

  • Extreme pain
  • Tightness unrelieved by HIGH elevation for one hour
  • Progressive swelling of toes unrelieved by HIGH elevation for one hour
  • Localised painful pressure
  • New or progressive numbness or tingling (pins and needles)
  • Breakage or damage to your cast
  • Offensive smell or actual discharge from under your cast

Report any severe pain, massive swelling, excessive redness or discharge from your wounds to your General Practitioner.

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