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After you decide to have foot surgery, there are many things to think about. Planning before surgery affects how well you recover and how long it takes. If your doctor says you will not be able to walk on the involved foot, your balance and movements will not be normal for a few weeks. Safety must be your number one concern. Here are some things you should do in advance:

  • Buy or rent the walking aid you will use (walker, crutches or cane) and practice with it. (During your pre-op visit, someone on your care team will tell you which type is best for you.)
  • Practice getting in and out of a car with the walking aid.
  • Get your home ready for your recovery.
    • Put away throw rugs and other items that could trip you.
    • Make sure pathways are clear to and through rooms you will be in each day.


Based on your age, health status and other issues, you may be at higher risk for:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Bones or incisions that will not heal
  • Surgery or procedure may not work
  • Problems from anesthesia (gases you breathe or drugs given to keep you asleep)
  • Foot problem or pain may come back or get worse
  • A toe that may be swollen, stiff, shorter or higher than those beside it
  • Toe, foot or limb swelling that will not go away
  • Trouble walking or wearing shoes or playing sports
  • You may react to stitches or other materials used during surgery
  • Blood clots
  • Nerve damage (burning, tingling, stinging, numbness)
  • Loss of toe, foot, limb or life
  • New pain or pain that will not go away, such as complex regional pain syndrome

A note of caution about all forms of nicotine: Some risks are higher if you use tobacco or nicotine replacement products. We urge you to stop as soon as you can. For best results, it may be wise to delay surgery until you give up smoking for good. Talk with your surgeon or your primary care doctor about ways to meet this challenge.


Benefits of the surgery or procedure may include, but are not limited to:

  • Decrease in pain
  • Increased mobility
  • Increased stability and safety
  • Increase choices of footwear
  • Improved looks of your foot


Other options may include:

  • Change in shoe or shoe style
  • Frequent doctor visits
  • Padding, strapping or bracing
  • Orthotic shoe inserts
  • Change the work you do
  • Injections
  • Physical therapy
  • No treatment at all

Preoperative visit

Your surgeon will review the treatment plan with you. You may want to bring a friend or family member with you to hear instructions and details. You may need special teaching on medicine. If you will not able to walk on your foot after surgery:

  • Your doctor may prescribe a walking aid if you do not use one already.
  • A physical therapist may show you how to use crutches or some other walking aid.

1 week before surgery

You will have a scheduled call or visit with a Pre-Admission Teaching and Testing (PATT) nurse to:

  • Review the process.
  • Review your medicines and allergies.
  • Answer your questions.
  • You may also meet someone from Anesthesia to discuss which type could be used during your surgery.

1 day before surgery

A nurse will call after 12 noon to tell you what time to arrive and where surgery will be done. It may be in the hospital or the East Building. Plan to be here 4 to 5 hours for preparation, surgery, recovery and discharge.

Day of surgery

Shower before you come to the hospital or clinic. Do not apply deodorant, lotion or powder. Take medicine as your doctor or nurse tells you. Do this as soon as you get up with just a sip of water for each pill.

Wear clean, comfortable, loose-fitting clothes. You may wear hearing aids or glasses but not contact lenses. Remove nail polish from the surgical foot. Remove all jewelry and body piercings. Leave valuables at home. Bring pillows to prop your foot during the ride home. Bring your walking aid but leave it in the car.

  • If your surgery is in the hospital: Use the Clinic entrance. Free valet parking starts at 4:45 a.m. If you prefer, park in Clinic Parking Ramp - Green. Go to the Clinic Information Desk in the lobby. You will be checked in and taken to the pre-op area.
  • If your surgery is in the East Building: Use the Denton Street entrance. There is free valet parking from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Go to the 5th floor and check in.

We will check your blood pressure, pulse, breathing and temperature.We may put on special wraps or stockings to promote blood flow and help prevent clots.

Your nurse will put a small needle into your arm or hand. This will be attached to a tube for fluids and medicine. After that, you may be given something to make you drowsy and relaxed. Staff will see to your comfort and answer your questions.When you are taken to the operating room your family or friends will be directed to the waiting area.While you are groggy or asleep, your foot will be scrubbed with a special soap to help prevent infection.

After surgery

You will wake up feeling groggy. Staff will watch over you while you wake up. You will be asked to cough and breathe deeply.We will offer you something to eat and drink. Your care team will help you sit, stand and start to walk. Take pain medicine as prescribed by your surgeon. It will control pain enough to allow you to move around.

Most patients return home after their surgery. Some need to stay in the hospital or go to a nursing home. If you need to go to a nursing home, a social worker will help you with the details.

On the way home, sit sideways with your foot raised on pillows in the back seat of a car or van. Stop and have your prescriptions filled.

While you recover at home

You need to stretch your muscles, expand your lungs and prevent blood clots in your legs. Do the exercises your nurse taught you before you were discharged.

At first, you can be on your feet for 5 to 10 minutes every couple of hours. Use a walker, cane or other aid as you were taught by your doctor or therapist. If you have a surgical shoe, wear it when you are on your feet.

As comfort allows, walk a little longer each time. Stay on your feet for 5 more minutes each time you are up.Work toward being on your feet for a total of no more than 3 to 4 hours each day. After you achieve this goal, your doctor or nurse will tell you how to safely increase your activity.

Do not use hot water bags or heating pads on your foot. Follow "RICE" rules to help prevent swelling.

Do not change the bandage (dressing) until you return to see your doctor. Do not remove the bandage even if it is somewhat bloody. Keep the bandage dry to help prevent infection. If it gets wet, pat it dry with a clean, dry towel. Call one of the listed numbers.

You may have a cast that protects your foot. Keep your cast dry to help prevent infection. You will be given a cast care tip sheet and a special bag to wear over the cast when you shower.

When you feel well enough, you may resume your normal routine in a few days.

You cannot expect to be pain-free right after surgery. "Post-op" pain is normal while you are healing.We make every effort to safely control post-op pain. Our goal is to keep pain at a level you can bear during your normal daily routine.

Your doctor will prescribe pain medicine if he or she thinks you will need it. Use it as prescribed for your comfort. Do not drink alcohol. To help prevent an upset stomach, take it with food. For mild pain, use over any over-the-counter pain relief product. Follow the dosing guide or label.

Constipation is common when you take pain medicine. Drink more fluids and eat plenty of fresh fruit and whole grains. If you become constipated, take:

  • 2 tablespoons of milk of magnesia
  • Your choice of some other mild laxative or tool softener. Follow package directions.

Do not drive until:

  • Your doctor says you can.
  • You can put full pressure on all pedals in your vehicle.
  • You are no longer taking prescribed pain medicine.

At your first office visit, your nurse will check your wound and teach you how to change the dressing. Your nurse or doctor will also discuss safe activity levels and when you may return to work.

"RICE" - Your key to steady recovery

R is for Rest

  • You may tire easily for the first few days. Many people find the third day after surgery is when they feel the worst. You will slowly feel better and get stronger.

I is for Ice

  • Apply ice behind your knee for 24 to 48 hours or as your doctor directs. Icing cools blood as it flows to your foot. This will prevent swelling and help decrease pain.
      Do not place ice directly on your skin.
    • Put a towel between the ice bag and your skin to prevent freezing.
    • Keep the ice in place for 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off.

C is for Compression

  • Your cast or bandage will compress your foot. It should feel snug, but if it is so tight it causes pain, call one of the listed numbers.

E is for Elevation

  • Keep your foot propped up after surgery if advised by your doctor. It should be higher than the level of your heart. Put 2 or 3 pillows under your foot when sitting or lying in bed. Raising your foot helps to control pain and prevent swelling.

Follow-up care

A follow up office visit will be scheduled. There may be many more in the weeks ahead. Your doctor needs to see how your foot is healing. You may need to arrange for a driver for a few weeks.

Contact information

Call one of the listed numbers if you have questions or notice any of these symptoms:

  • Pain or throbbing is not relieved by stretching or pain medicine.
  • A sore place on your leg
    • Looks redder than skin around it
    • Feels hard to the touch
    • Feels hot, as if you have a fever in your leg.
  • Blood flowing from your wound soaks the bandage.
  • Numbness and tingling do not go away after you prop up your leg for a while.
  • Toes turn pale, red, blue or some color other than normal pink.
  • There is more swelling or drainage at the surgical site.
  • You have chills or fever greater than 101°F.

    8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays:

      For questions and concerns
      If you are seen in La Crosse, Onalaska, Tomah, Winona or Sparta, call:
      (608) 775-2073 or (800) 362-9567, ext. 52073

      In Decorah, call:
      (563) 382-3140 or (800) 865-3140

      In Viroqua, call:
      (608) 637-4776 or (800) 362-9567, ext. 74776

      To make an appointment
      To be seen in La Crosse, Onalaska, Tomah, Winona or Sparta, call:
      (608) 775-2427 or (800) 362-9567, ext. 52427

      In Decorah, call:
      (563) 382-3140 or (800) 865-3140

      In Viroqua, call:
      (608) 637-4704 or (800) 362-9567, ext. 74704

    After hours, weekends and holidays:

      Call Telephone Nurse Advisor
      (608) 775-4454 or (800) 858-1050. Ask the nurse to page the podiatry resident or podiatrist on call.

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