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Recovery Guide to Foot & Ankle Surgery

We are glad that you have chosen Dr. Miller for your foot and ankle surgery. Our goal is to make this experience as pleasant as possible for you. If you have any questions about your hospital stay, rehabilitation or recovery period, please contact Dr. Miller’s office for more information specific to your surgery.

Please click here to download the full informational PDF guide.  This guide is to help you:

1. Understand what to expect during your surgery and recovery (Page 3)

2. Prepare your house for a safe return home after your surgery (Page 4)

3. Know what to bring to the hospital or surgical center on the day of surgery (Page 8)

4. Understand what to expect on the day of surgery and if you stay in the hospital overnight (Page 9)

5. Learn exercises to do at home before and after surgery (Page 12)

6. Review ways to move around safely after your surgery to protect yourself (Page 15)

7. Local places to obtain ambulatory aids (Page 23)

Foot and Ankle X-ray

What to Expect During Your Surgery and Recovery

To help protect the surgery you are having done, sometimes Dr. Miller will want you to keep the operated foot off the ground at all times. This is called non-weight bearing and means you cannot put any weight at all on the operated foot, until Dr. Miller says that it is safe to do so. You generally return to the doctor for a follow-up visit about 8-14 days after surgery.
After the surgery, your foot will be wrapped up in a large, bulky splint or soft dressing to protect the foot and ankle. Dr. Miller initially uses these splints instead of a cast, because the foot will swell after surgery. These splints may feel very heavy because you have just had surgery. When you return to Dr. Miller, he will remove the splint and replace it with a smaller, lighter cast or boot.
Dr. Miller will want you to rest as much as possible right after surgery. Your foot will swell, and may become painful, when it is left hanging down. So, when you are sitting or lying down, keep the leg elevated above your heart to help keep the swelling down and reduce pain.

General Home Safety Tips

1. Wear footwear that gives you good support and traction. Tennis shoes/sneakers with good tread on the bottom are great options.

2. Install non-skid mats on the shower or tub floor.

3. A hand-held shower can make showering much easier after surgery.

4. Make sure feet are dry before getting out of tub, so you don’t slip.

5. Sit on a sturdy chair while brushing teeth, shaving, applying makeup, cooking, etc.

6. Do not sit on chairs that have wheels.

7. Sit in firm chairs with armrests. They are much easier to get up from.

8. If you are using a walker, do NOT hold things in your hand as you use your walker. Walker bags are available for purchase on-line or at local pharmacies.

What to Bring to the Hospital or Ambulatory Surgery Center

  • Driver’s license or passport for identification
  • Insurance cards
  • Copies of advance directives or living will (if you have them)
  • Medication list: Write down a list of all the medicines you take, dosages and the time of day you take them, including over-the-counter drugs and prescription medicines.
  • Do NOT bring any medications from home
  • Clothes: pajamas, underwear, socks, shirts
  • You will have a big, bulky dressing on your leg so loose-fitting clothing is recommended for your lower body, such as sweat pants or shorts.
  • Footwear: rubber-soled shoes with good traction (such as tennis shoes) Please do not wear backless shoes for safety.
  • Toiletries: soap, shampoo, shaving items, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, make-up, brush, deodorant
  • Personal equipment: glasses, hearing aids, dentures
  • Assistive devices: crutches, walker, or wheelchair. If you have your own equipment, please bring it with you and label it with your name. If you do not have any equipment, necessary items will be provided for you at the hospital or surgical center through your insurance.
  • C-PAP or external breathing devices: If you typically use assistive breathing devices at home, please bring them with you and label them with your name. Your nursing team will discuss arrangements for using them while in the hospital.
  • Family member or caregiver: Your caregiver participates in family training with the team and takes you home when you are discharged from the hospital.

Day of Surgery

Prior to surgery, a simple step you can take to enhance your successful recovery is carefully washing your skin the night before, or preferably, the morning of your surgery. This helps decrease the number of germs on the skin, reducing the risk of infection. If you have had an injury and currently have a splint on, please wash the rest of your body keeping the splint dry. Follow these instructions to ensure that your skin is clean before surgery:

  • Shower with an antibacterial liquid soap containing the ingredient chlorhexidine gluconate or CHG (brand name is Hibiclens). The soap can be purchased at most local pharmacies. Purchase the 4 ounce bottle with the main active ingredient being chlorhexidine gluconate. Note: if you are allergic is chlorhexidine, do not use this soap and tell your nurse when you arrive at the location of surgery.
  • Wash your hair first using your normal shampoo. Thoroughly rinse your hair and body of any shampoo.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions when applying CHG to the entire body from the neck down (including under arms and groin). Avoid contact with your face, head, eyes, ears, mouth and genital area. Gently wash your body, especially the area where surgery will be performed, and leave soap on for 3 minutes.
  • Rinse your body thoroughly and gently pat dry using a clean, dry towel. Do not apply lotion or perfume to your body after showering with CHG soap.
  • Wear freshly laundered sleepwear and sleep on clean sheets
  • Wear clean, comfortable clothing on the day of your surgery.
  • If you are unable to purchase CHG or forget to shower with it, please inform the nurse when you check in for surgery.

You will receive information from the hospital or the Surgical Center and Dr. Miller’s office that provides instructions regarding procedures.
On the day of your surgery, please arrive at the hospital or surgical center at least two hours prior to your scheduled surgery or when otherwise instructed to arrive. If at the hospital, be sure to sign in as a visitor at the entrance and proceed to the Admitting Department to register.

After you register, you will proceed to the preoperative area, where the experienced staff of nurses will assist you. You will also meet with Dr. Miller and the anesthesiologist at that time.
Next, you will move into the operating room, where the nurses will prepare you for surgery and Dr. Miller will perform your surgery.

After surgery, you will be taken to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit where you will stay until you wake up after surgery. This is also known as the recovery room.
From the Recovery Room, you may be transferred to the orthopaedic inpatient unit in the hospital, or you may be discharged to home with your caregiver/family.


Day After Surgery

If You Require an Overnight Stay in the Hospital or Surgery Center:
Before you are discharged from the hospital, our goal is to make sure you are safe to return home. The day after surgery, a physical therapist (PT) will come to see you in your room. The PT will inquire about your home situation and any equipment that you have or may need.

The therapist will also assess and train you in the skills you need in order to go home safely. These skills include moving around in bed, transferring from the bed and chair, moving from sitting to standing and walking with the appropriate assistive device—all while not putting any weight on the foot/ankle that had surgery. If you have difficulty with your activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing or moving safely around the bathroom, you may also see an occupational therapist (OT).

In addition to your safety, our goal is to help you manage your pain. Your nurse will assist you with pain medication. Keeping the foot elevated above your heart when you are in bed or sitting in a chair and using ice on the foot/ankle can also help to reduce pain.

Going Home from the Hospital

You must arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery. This is best completed before surgery. You will NOT be able to drive home, and you may not drive until cleared to do so by Dr. Miller.

Front Seat Car Transfer:

1. Prior to car entry, make sure the seat is back completely from the dashboard and the back of the seat is reclined. This enables you more leg room to swing the operative leg into the car.

2. Turn around so you are facing away from the car and back up to the car with your walker/crutches.

3. When you feel the back of your legs touch the seat, reach one hand back for the seat and bend at your waist to lower yourself down. Keep your operative leg off of the ground!

4. Swing your operative leg in gently.

Safe Mobility After Surgery

THIS INFORMATION IS FOR REVIEW PURPOSES ONLY! **Please DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME until you have been properly trained by our therapy or nursing staff. **
Chair Transfers Using a Walker
To stand up:

1. Scoot forward in the chair until you are sitting on the edge.

2. Lean forward and push down through the armrests, using your non-operative leg to stand up.

3. Keep your operated foot off the floor.

4. Once standing, reach for the walker first with one hand, then the other.

5. Get your balance.

There are a number of ambulatory aides you can use to assist you in maintaining your non-weight bearing status. As the patient, you must feel comfortable with ambulatory aide you choose – everyone is different, just because your friend prefers a knee scooter does not mean you will.

Safety is the number one goal while you are non-weight bearing. Some patients find it beneficial to meet with a physical therapist prior to their surgery to better determine which ambulatory aide is best for them as well as making sure they feel comfortable getting around safely; this is called PREHAB. If this is something you are interested, please contact our office so that we may appropriately get you set up for this.
Many patients do find it extremely beneficial to obtain their ambulatory aid of choice prior to surgery.

This allows you to practice using it – even if you do not attend prehab – and increases your comfort level with the device.
If you choose to use a walker or crutches, it is recommended that you be fitted for these as they are height specific – even if you already have them at home. Ensuring that the device is appropriate for you increases your safety and benefits you greatly.

Please feel free to contact our office if you have any questions or concerns.

Below you will find a list of local companies that offer different types of ambulatory aides for patients.
Beacon Durable Medical Equipment (DME): Please call or stop in for availability

Summit Office: 513-354-3710
500 E. Business Way, Cincinnati, OH 45241

West Office: 513-354-7799 (call for IN office info also)
6480 Harrison Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45247

East Office: 513-247-4359
463 Ohio Pike, Cincinnati, OH 45255

NKY Office: 859-905-1006
600 Rodeo Dr, Erlanger, KY 41018

Knee Scooters: Rental Only $75/month Self Pay