Ankle replacement - discharge

You had an ankle replacement. This surgery replaced the bones that made up your ankle joint with artificial joint parts (prosthetic components). Your surgeon removed and reshaped damaged bones, and replaced it with a new artificial ankle joint.

You received pain medication and were shown how to treat swelling around your new artificial ankle joint.

What to Expect at Home

Your ankle area may feel warm and tender for 4 to 6 weeks.

You will need help with everyday activities, such as driving, shopping, bathing, meal preparation, and household chores, for up to 6 weeks. You will need to keep weight off of the foot for 10 - 12 weeks. Recovery can take 3 - 6 months. It may take up to 6 months before you return to normal activity levels.


Your doctor will ask you to rest when you first go home. Keep your leg propped up on one or two pillows. Place the pillows below your foot or calf muscle. This helps reduce swelling.

It is very important to elevate your leg. Swelling can lead to poor wound healing and complications to your surgery.

You will be asked to keep all weight off of your foot for 10 to 12 weeks. You will need to use a walker or crutches.

  • You will be wearing a cast or a splint. Take the cast or splint off only when your doctor or physical therapist says to.
  • Try not to stand for long periods.
  • Do any exercises your doctor or physical therapist showed you.

You will be sent to physical therapy. You will start with range of motion exercises for your ankle. You will learn exercises to strengthen the muscles around your ankle next. Your therapist will slowly increase the amount and type of activities as you build strength.

Do not start heavier exercises, such as jogging, swimming, aerobics, or bicycling, until your doctor or therapist tells you it is okay. Ask your doctor when it will be safe for you to return to work or drive.

Wound Care

Your sutures (stitches) will be removed about 1 - 2 weeks after surgery. You should keep your incision clean and dry for 2 weeks. Keep your bandage on your wound clean and dry. You may change the dressing every day if you like.

Do NOT shower until after your follow-up appointment with your doctor. Your doctor will tell you when you can begin taking showers. When you do start showering again, let the water run over the incision. Do NOT scrub.

Do NOT soak the wound in the bath or a hot tub.

See also: Surgical wound care


Your doctor will give you a prescription for pain medicine. Get it filled when you go home so you have it available. Take your pain medicine before letting your pain get worse. Otherwise the pain will become worse than it should.

Taking ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or another anti-inflammatory medicine may also help. Talk to your doctor about what other medicines you can take with your pain medication.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse if you notice:

  • Bleeding that soaks through your dressing and does not stop when you put pressure over the area
  • Pain that does not go away with your pain medicine
  • Swelling or pain in your calf muscle
  • Your foot or toes appear darker or are cool to the touch
  • Redness, pain, swelling, or yellowish discharge from the wound sites
  • Your temperature is higher than 101 °F

Alternate Names

Ankle arthroplasty - total - discharge; Total ankle arthroplasty - discharge; Endoprosthetic ankle replacement - discharge


Ishikawa SN. Total ankle arthroplasty. In: Canale ST, Beatty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 5.

Update Date: 10/31/2012

Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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