Caring for Your Child after Lower Extremity Surgery
Common sense will tell you when your child is doing too much, which can delay healing. On the other hand, too little activity can delay the return of your child’s strength. You may be able to speed up your child’s recovery.
- Have your child follow the exercise program the therapist has shown you.
- The correct use of the crutches will promote healing and prevent injury. Your child will not be able to put full weight on the leg.
- Your child (if old enough) should not drive if the right leg is involved. Do not allow your child to drive while taking prescription pain pills.
Care of incision
Proper care of your child’s incision will help to prevent infection. If your child has a cast, you will also be given cast care instructions.
- In most cases, a dry dressing with an ace bandage will cover your child’s incision(s) until the return to see your child’s doctor. The dressing should be kept clean and dry.
- Do not remove the ace wrap or immobilizer unless you have been told to do so by your child’s doctor.
- If your child has a cast, do not let your child take a tub bath or shower. Please sponge bathe instead.
- If your child is allowed to bathe, wrap a plastic bag around the 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 your child is up more, you may notice some swelling in your child’s ankle or foot. There are many things you can do to prevent or decrease swelling.
- Your child should increase his activity slowly.
- Have your child raise his leg between periods of walking. Place a pillow under your child’s ankle or calf. Keep your child’s foot higher than or level with the knee.
- Your child should move his toes and, if possible, his ankle.
- Your doctor may prescribe medicine to help keep the swelling down in your child’s ankle or foot. Your child should take it as ordered unless your child develops an upset stomach. Stop taking this medicine, and call your child’s clinic nurse.
- If your child only has an ace wrap around the ankle or foot, rewrap it daily as you have been shown. If your child has an ace wrap over a splint on the 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.
- Your child may need to use pain pills at home.
- To reduce the pain, first try ice and have your child decrease his activity level.
- Apply ice on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. If this does not help, give your child pain pills as you were told.
- Your child may find it helpful to take pain pills 30 minutes before exercise.
- Pain pills can cause constipation. Make sure your child eats plenty of roughage (bran, oats, fresh fruits and vegetables), and drinks a lot of fluids.
- At some point, your child should no longer need the pain pills.
When to Call the Doctor or Clinic
Take your child’s temperature twice a day. If the reading is above 100.5° F or 38.1° C for two readings, call the doctor.
Check your child’s feet and toes twice a day. Call with any of these problems.
- Increased tingling or numbness in your child’s feet and toes.
- Increased pain, swelling, or redness at the incision.
- Increased swelling of your child’s 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 the 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 your child 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.
Pediatric Orthopedic Clinic, 8:00 am and 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday (608) 263-6420
Nights and Weekends: This number will give you the paging operator. Ask for the “pediatric 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: 05/05/2010
Copyright © 03/31/2010 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7032
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