What to Expect When Foot Surgery is Recommended
You have not achieved the level of pain relief that you and your lifestyle are looking for through conservative treatment options and your foot specialist is now recommending surgery to alleviate your condition and return you to your normal activities comfortably. Let me attempt to eliminate some of the anxiety related to foot and ankle surgery by answering some common patient questions.
Do I NEED surgery?
The short answer is maybe. For a majority of foot related pain, non-surgical treatment coupled with preventative measures is all that is needed to not only eliminate foot pain, but also to prevent pain from returning. There are times, however, when surgery is necessary:
• Trauma including certain foot and ankle fractures and dislocations, ruptured tendons, lacerations, and the removal of foreign bodies
• Infection including soft tissue abscesses and bone infection
• Painful deformities including painful flatfoot reconstruction, painful bunions and hammertoes, and painful chronically diseased tendons
• Arthritis including painful deformities caused by osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis such as excision of bone spurs, fusion of joints, replacing a joint with a joint implant, or arthroscopic debridement
Will I be awake for the surgery?
The short answer is also maybe. For the majority of foot surgeries we use Monitored Anesthesia Care (MAC), which allows you to breathe on your own without the need for breathing tubes. This level of sedation keeps you “awake” but to a level where you neither feel nor remember the procedure. For more complicated cases including rearfoot reconstruction and ankle trauma General Anesthesia is usually required. Your health status and comfort level are also large components in selecting the type of anesthesia that is appropriate for you.
Will surgery hurt?
You will not feel anything during the procedure. Whether you only need local anesthetic in the office for removal of an ingrown toenail, or General Anesthesia for repair of an ankle fracture, we make sure that your are comfortable during the procedure. Post operative discomfort can be minimized by keeping swelling under control with ice and elevation, staying off of your foot completely or as much as possible, and taking the pain medications prescribed by your surgeon.
Each patient is unique regarding the procedure(s) being performed and their overall medical health, so postoperative courses and surgeon’s instructions may vary.
Can I walk after my surgery?
Most foot surgery is performed on an outpatient basis with the ability to walk right away in a surgical shoe or boot. Some foot and ankle surgeries require a period of complete non-weight bearing followed by a slow transition to partial weight bearing and finally full weight bearing and ambulation in a rigid CAM (controlled ankle motion) boot before transitioning to normal shoes.
Some procedures only require a surgical shoe for a week and a half, while other procedures may require at least 1 month in a CAM boot with a total recovery time of potentially 3 months or even longer. If you need to be non-weight bearing, you will need assistance with crutches, a Roll-About knee scooter, or a wheel chair. You will spend a significant amount of time simply resting, icing, and elevating the foot to help with pain control, swelling and to promote healing. We also provide post-operative compression sleeves to help this process.
If I can’t walk and have a boot or cast on my leg, how do I shower?
We recommend utilizing a shower stool or switching to bathing rather than showering during the couple weeks before you are able to bear weight. In most cases the post-operative dressing should remain clean, dry, and intact. At Kansas City Foot and Ankle we recommend a Seal Tight bandage protector, which allows you to shower or bath while keeping the post surgical dressing nice and dry.
Is surgery DEFINITELY going to work for me?
While there is never a guarantee regarding any treatment in medicine, the surgeons at Kansas City Foot and Ankle are among the best-trained foot and ankle surgeons nationally. Most surgical procedures of the foot and ankle have predictable results with high patient satisfaction outcomes. Surgery is a team effort, and your participation in your postoperative care is not only encouraged, but required for a successful outcome. Foot and ankle surgery and its ensuing postoperative course is a brief, however, significant life altering event and should be taken very seriously.
We understand the anxiety associated with the word “surgery” and simply because we, as foot and ankle surgeons, perform surgery on a regular basis does not mean we have become jaded to this fact. If you are suffering from significant, unresolved foot or ankle pain you should see a foot and ankle specialist sooner than later, as many conditions are progressive and can worsen without treatment. Know that, whenever possible, we exhaust all non-surgical treatment before considering surgery.
While you may think you have tried everything, it is highly likely that at Kansas City Foot and Ankle we have a non-surgical option you may not have heard of and that might be the missing link to resolution of your pain. Should all non-surgical options be exhausted, feel confident in knowing that, at Kansas City Foot and Ankle, we specialize in making your surgical experience as comfortable as possible.
To learn more, call our office at 816-943-1111.