Know what to expect

Know what to expectOnce you’ve decided to have ankle replacement surgery, you probably expect certain things to happen before, during and after your operation. It’s important that you have the facts so that you aren’t surprised or disappointed.

  • Most people expect that surgery will ease or cure their ankle pain and allow them to "get back to normal." While this is the outcome for many people, your overall health and age—and how well you do in protecting your new ankle joint and doing rehabilitation exercises—all play a part in how well you do.
  • There are many reasons for having ankle replacement and many different procedures, each with its own recovery protocol. Outcomes and recovery times vary from person to person. So after your operation, try to avoid comparing yourself to others who have had this surgery. Instead, concentrate on your own recovery.
  • If your ankle pain and other symptoms are due to rheumatoid arthritis, your recovery may be slower than average and/or you may be left with some degree of pain and/or disability. It’s a good idea to talk this over with your surgeon to make sure you have realistic ideas about your own recovery.
  • If your ankle joint was very stiff for a long time before surgery, chances are you’ll be left with some degree of stiffness afterwards. But many people do get back a certain degree of motion which is of major benefit.
  • Many people expect to sit back and be looked after following ankle joint replacement surgery. This is NOT the case! The operation is just one step in your recovery. Your effort is important at every stage. This means you must learn all you can about joint replacement surgery and carefully follow your advice from your surgeon, therapists and others involved in your care.

What should you expect to happen after your operation? You can read more in Preparing for Your SurgeryWhile You're in Hospital, and During Your Recovery, but here’s a general idea:

  • Most patients are encouraged to get out of bed with help the day after surgery. You will be non-weight bearing for the first two weeks—this means you must NOT put any weight on the affected foot.
  • You can expect some discomfort right after surgery which should gradually improve over the next days, weeks and months. Your physical therapy will begin in the hospital where you’ll be encouraged to do some simple bed exercises during the first day or two. You’ll also be taught how to walk safely on crutches or a walker.
  • Most people go home within a few days to a week after surgery. Some people who need more therapy or who have other health problems which might complicate their recovery are more likely to be sent to a rehabilitation hospital.
  • Full recovery after ankle replacement surgery usually takes at least six months, although in more complicated cases, recovery can take a year or longer (See A recovery timeline).