Lower Extremity Surgery Home Care Instructions
Common sense will tell you when you are doing too much, which can delay healing. On the other hand, too little activity can delay the return of your strength. You may be able to speed up your recovery.
- Follow the exercise program your therapist has shown you.
- The correct use of your crutches will promote healing and prevent injury. You will not be able to put full weight on your leg.
- You should not drive if your right leg is involved. Do not drive while taking prescription pain pills.
Care of incision
Proper care of your incision will help to prevent infection. If you have a cast, you will also be given cast care instructions.
- In most cases, a dry dressing with an ace bandage will cover your incision(s) until you return to see your doctor. The dressing should be kept clean and dry.
- Do not remove your ace wrap or immobilizer unless you have been told to do so by your doctor.
- If you have a cast, do not take a tub bath or shower. Please sponge bathe instead.
- If you are allowed to bathe, wrap a plastic bag around your dressing. Cover the entire dressing. Then use tape to seal the end to help keep water out and to keep the bag in place. If the dressing becomes wet, you will need to change it.
As you are up more, you may notice some swelling in your ankle, foot, or knee. There are many things you can do to prevent or decrease swelling.
- Increase your activity slowly.
- Raise your leg between periods of walking. Place a pillow under your ankle or calf. Keep your foot higher than or level with your knee.
- Move your toes and, if possible, your ankle.
- Your doctor may prescribe medicine to help keep the swelling down in your knee, ankle, or foot. You should take it as ordered unless you develop an upset stomach. Stop taking this medicine, and call your clinic’s nurse.
- If you have only an ace wrap around your knee, rewrap it daily as you have been shown. If you have an ace wrap over a splint on your leg, this should not be removed unless you were told to do so.
- If swelling occurs after exercising, apply an ice pack or ice unit to the area.
- You may need to use pain pills at home.
- To reduce the pain, first try ice and to decrease your activity level.
- Apply ice on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. If this does not help, use your pain pills as you were told.
- You may find it helpful to take pain pills 30 minutes before exercise.
- Pain pills can cause constipation. Eat plenty of roughage (bran, oats, fresh fruits and vegetables), and drink a lot of fluids.
- At some point you should no longer need the pain pills.
When to Call the Doctor or Clinic
Take your temperature twice a day. If the reading is above 100.5° F (38.1° C) for two readings, call the doctor.
Check your feet and toes twice a day. Call with any of these problems.
- Increased tingling or numbness in your feet and toes.
- Increased pain, swelling, or redness at your incision.
- Increased swelling of your foot and calf that does not go away after raising the leg.
- Increased swelling or pain in the calf or behind the knee that does not go away with raising the leg.
- Continuous decrease in warmth.
- Drainage from your incision. Be ready to describe what the drainage looks like (color, thick or thin), how it smells and how much there is. For example, the drainage soaks through ______ gauze dressings every hour. Size of drainage - compare to dime, quarter, half dollar.
Note: Any numbness and tingling you had before surgery may still be present. This should slowly decrease over a few weeks. Sometimes the numbness does not away. There may be some reddish, purple, or yellow discoloration of the skin.
Orthopedic Clinic, 8:00 am and 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday (608) 263-7540
Nights and Weekends: This number will give you the paging operator. Ask for the “orthopedic resident on call.” Leave your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, please call 1-800-323-8942.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 03/04/2010
Copyright © 03/04/2010 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4220
Print Health Fact For You