Preparing for foot surgery
You have had enough! That bunion or hammer toe has been killing you for some time now and you want to have it fixed surgically. You have seen the Podiatrist and are about to have foot surgery. It can be overwhelming to know that you must have surgery on your foot. Our feet play such an integral part of everything we do everyday. If you are prepared for foot surgery, you will make it through the surgery and healing process with as little hassle as possible, as well as expedite the pre-operative (before surgery) and post-operative (after surgery) processes. Foot surgery is a fairly common occurrence that may present some challenges, from understanding what the podiatrist will do to your foot, how to take pain meds, how and when to walk, how to bathe and on and on. But like any other surgery to ensure that you have a safe and uneventful experience you must prepare for the procedure as well as for after the procedure. Here are some general guidelines to help you on the road to foot surgery and a speedy recovery.
Before proceeding to surgery you must complete any pre-operative tests or lab work prescribed by your podiatrist. Arrange to have someone drive you home from the office, surgery center or hospital. Stop taking aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) one week before surgery according to specific instructions from your doctor. Follow specific instructions about eating and drinking on the day of surgery, usually no eating or drinking after midnight. If you currently take any medications, take them the day of your surgery with just a sip of water. It is best not to wear any jewelery, body piercings, makeup, nail polish, hairpins or contacts. Leave valuables and money at home and wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing. Wash your foot thoroughly both the night before and the day of surgery to reduce bacteria.
Based on the type of foot surgery you are going to have and the level of physical exertion required in your work, you must plan to take some time off work, anywhere from 3 – 6 weeks. Your podiatrist will tell you exactly how much time you need to take off.
Things to do prior to surgery
Try and think about all of the things you are likely to need while you recover from foot surgery. Here are some suggestions:
• Stock up on supplies (food, water, etc.) so you do not need to leave the house often.
• Ask family and friends to help you during your recovery.
• Get books, movies and other items you enjoy to occupy your time during the recovery period.
• Prepare your house. Clear the clutter and move objects that will make it difficult to move from one room to another. If you have a two story home, consider moving your bed to the ground floor or at least think of how to maneuver up and down the stairs. Prepare your bathroom and shower area also with shower stool, grab bars, etc.
• Make your bedroom or living room the command central for your recovery. Fill the area with everything you need to be comfortable, so they can be easily reached. The supplies may include: Telephone, computer, TV, bed table for meals, extra pillows to elevate your feet, pillows for your back, writing materials, drinks, hand lotion, craft or hobby items, etc.
After surgery you will have a bandage on your feet to cover the surgery site and your feet may be swollen and maybe painful at the incision site. The swelling is due to the increased blood flow to the foot in response to the surgery. Most swelling occurs in the first 3-4 days after surgery and gradually decreases overtime. However, it often takes many months for all of the swelling to resolve completely. This swelling can also cause pain. Elevating the leg or putting ice on the top of the foot can decrease this pain and swelling. Here are more guidelines on how to care for your feet after surgery.
• Pain: Most persons may experience some pain in the days immediately following surgery. The podiatrist will prescribe pain medication to assist. You must take the medications as ordered. Elevating the foot and preventing swelling can also help with controlling the pain.
• Elevate feet: The foot must be elevated whenever you are sitting or lying. Keeping your foot elevated 6-18 inches above your heart can be very helpful at minimizing swelling and therefore decreasing pain. The best way to elevate your foot is to lie on bed or sofa with one or two pillows under the foot.
• Activities: It is critical to avoid activities that will require you to have your foot dangling down or standing on the foot for long periods of time in the early post-operative period. Therefore avoid shopping excursions or other activities where you will be standing for any length of time in the first few weeks after surgery.
• Ice: To ice the foot place ice cubes in a plastic bag or a package of frozen vegetables can be very helpful at controlling post-operative pain and swelling. Ice should be wrapped in a thin towel and applied to the foot for 10-15 minutes at a time and then removed for 10-15 minutes. Ice should NEVER be used when the foot is numb.
• Work: Be prepared to spend the first one to four weeks lying in bed or on the sofa with your foot elevated. Your primary “work” during this time will be to facilitate foot healing.
• Showering: Showering following foot surgery can be a challenge. It is important to shower in a manner that optimizes safety and does not get the bandage wet. When showering, you should sit on a shower stool to prevent falls and injury. You will need a waterproof container such as a shower boot to cover your foot and lower leg when showering.
Each person and each surgery is unique. So these general guidelines are not intended to replace specific instructions from the podiatrist or surgeon regarding your particular surgery. Persons having surgery should follow the specific instructions and ask questions. Following these guidelines can help you have a successful surgery and safe and uneventful recovery.
For more information on preparing for foot surgery visit www.apma.org or www.footphysicians.com; or email [email protected]; To see a podiatrist, visit Bahamas Foot Centre, Rosetta Street – 325-2996 or Bahamas Surgical Associates, Albury Lane – 394-5820.