Preparation for total ankle replacement

Posted by jyen1111 @jyen1111, Jul 9, 2021

What do you wish you had done before surgery to help recovery?

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Joint Replacements group.

@jyen1111 I wanted to say hello and welcome you to Connect. Ankle replacement sounds like a big surgery. I would be interested to check in with you since potentially I could have that surgery in my future too. Last summer, I had a bad ankle fracture and was suddenly thrust into being unprepared to be disabled for the months that I could not bear weight on my foot.

The first thing to think about is how are you going to navigate your home? Do you have uncluttered floor space to be able to travel and turn around with a wheelchair or wheeled device? Make sure there is nothing to trip on, and take up any loose rugs for that reason. Early on, I found crutches to be too unstable for me. I was using a standard walker and I looped a nylon tie down strap through it to give me a place to rest and put weight on my knee as I hobbled around. At first, I slept on the couch and needed to keep my foot elevated to reduce swelling. Swelling = pain. Have extra pillows so your can prop up your leg and get comfy. Some people like to sleep in recliners. After a few weeks, I scooted up and down stairs on my rear and held onto the railing to be able to stand up with my good leg. I had a wheeled Rollator walker upstairs and got good at kneeling on it and pushing with the good leg. A scooter would have been easier, but I could use this because my mom had it. For the outside stairs up to the porch, I got good at leaning on my arms on the sturdy metal railngs and hopping my good leg up a stair at a time.

Put elastic laces in your tennis shoes so you can just slip them on. Bending over to tie shoes with a condition like this is awkward. Get any medications and prescriptions filled and organized. Maybe get a haircut since it might be awhile before you feel good enough to go out for that. For bathing, I had a bench in the bathtub and sat sideways with my lower leg on a folding camp stool and used a pitcher to pour water over me. A handheld shower head is much easier, but I didn't have that. I had a rubber "sock" to cover my cast to keep it dry with an elastic strap to tighten around it. The hospital gave that to me. The folding camp stools also allowed me to stand at the sink with my knee resting in the "hammock" of the stool. You might want gel packs that freeze so you can ice your leg if your doctor allows.

Another consideration is if and when you get to the stage of having a walking boot, with a sole that is thicker than tennis shoes, it will put one hip higher. It's better to have shoes or hiking boots that match the sole thickness to prevent problems. My husband had a boot for a foot stress fracture and wasn't wearing a comparable boot on the other foot. That stressed his Achilles tendon and caused a partial tear on the other leg, which meant more time in a boot for that foot. In time it fibrosed back together, but I wonder if that could have been avoided if his legs were effectively the same "length" if the pelvis was level. An un-level pelvis will also stress knee and hip joints. You might be walking oddly for awhile and favoring a leg.

Stock up on groceries and do a thorough house cleaning. Think about your meals and anything you can organize ahead of time and freeze. Hopefully, you will have the support of a family member to help. If there is anything that needs repair at your house, do it now. Make sure the bathrooms are stocked with clean towels, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, etc., and that these are in easy reach for you when you will be using the bathroom or bathing. You don't want to have to hobble around for anything. Make sure you wipe up any spilled water before getting out of the bath, but be careful about tripping or sliding on bath mats. A bare floor is best. Do all your laundry so you have a supply of clean folded t-shirts, etc. I put mine in a plastic bin with a lid. It is too hard to try to rummage through drawers and closets. You could also put one of those bins in the bathroom if it is not in the way, so you are ready when you need clothes after bathing. Do you have grab rails in the bathroom? You can find some that can be clamped onto tubs if you don't want to install them. Having extra standard walkers or longer benches that span from inside the tub to outside of it can help with this too so you can sit and scoot across. You can find them in lending places for seniors or at resale shops fairly inexpensively.

I hope you will have a great outcome and will be walking soon, but give yourself the time to rest and recover. Get lots of sleep because you body needs this while you are healing.

Did I leave anything out? Who else has suggestions?


Wow! Thank you so much all that information! It’s really helpful and just what I was looking for

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