Postoperative instruction: major foot surgery

Major Foot Surgery

Relax, it is over. You have just undergone surgery to correct a condition that was causing you a problem. We must now address ourselves to the recovery and rehabilitation period. By following a few, simple instructions, this period can be uneventful and short.

What to expect

Surgery is a sophisticated form of injury and some degree of pain and swelling is expected. The discomfort will gradually lessen over the next few days and weeks. The exact rehabilitation period varies from patient to patient and depends on the nature of the surgery performed, your natural healing ability and your adherence to the instructions that follow.

Immediately after your surgery

Activity—pamper your foot for a few days and minimize your activities. If crutches are necessary, a nurse will show you how to use them properly both weight-bearing and/or nonweightbearing as advised. Use your surgical shoe or boot as prescribed when you do get up. You may remove the shoe and boot when not walking. Elevate your foot above the level of your heart using two pillows. A pillow under the mattress is also helpful (and hard to kick off when you sleep!)

Clean, dry and cold—your surgical dressing should be kept clean and dry until you are ready to return to the office for the first dressing change. If possible, keep a large stock over the dressing. Apply an ice pack over the dressing for the first 12-24 hours after surgery. It should be applied for about 10 minutes out of every 30 (except for when you are sleeping.)

Do not attempt to shower, covering the dressing with a plastic garbage bag and adhesive tape. It seldom works. Do not remove a gauze dressing for any reason. A snug dressing helps to control swelling. If the dressing feels excessively tight, you may remove and reapply the outer compression dressing. If it is still too snug please call.

You may see blood—you may get some bleeding into your dressing. A certain amount of seepage is to be expected and may be ignored. Most bleeding will occur during the first few hours immediately following surgery and can be controlled elevation and ice. However, excessive bleeding should be reported to our office. Not sure how much is too much? Call.

Dealing with pain—pain medication may be taken as prescribed (usually every 4-6 hours). Pain medication must be taken with food. This should include a solid e.g. at least half of a sandwich. Application of ice packs should lessen the pain. Elevation is extremely important too. If the pain persists even with medication, please contact us immediately. Do not take any alcoholic beverages while taking pain medication and do not operate a motor vehicle.

Diet—eat well-balanced, nutritionally sound meals. This is no time for weight-loss dieting. Your body will need to be properly nourished to adequately heal.

Calf pain and/or shortness of breath – A blood clot in the leg following foot surgery is thankfully an extremely rare event. It is usually signalled by pain in the calf. To help prevent this, it is helpful to move your foot at the ankle multiple times over the course of the day. If you develop calf pain you must be seen immediately. If you were to also experience shortness of breath that could signal a clot that let loose to the lungs. You need to call 911 immediately.


After surgery you can begin to think about gradually returning to your normal routine. The next two to three months or so should be considered a period of rehabilitation with certain procedures and precautions observed to ensure a successful recovery.

It is important that the incision be kept free of irritation. Do not try to wear tight, stylish shoes during this healing period. Content yourself with only the shoes that have been recommended for now. Do not be concerned about a bruised appearance. It is normal following surgery and will last for a few weeks.

Be sure to keep all appointments in an office. It is essential that your recovery be monitored. Should you feel uncertain about your progress at any time, please do not hesitate to call.

Office telephone: 608-831-8086

Home telephone:
Dr. John Finnell 231-2342
Dr. Jill Migon 848-6249

To page: Dial 265-7000.
Once you begin to hear the recording, dial the doctor’s pager number:
Dr. John Finnell 7634
Dr. Jill Migon 5141

When you hear the recording again, dial your telephone number followed by the # key. Then hang up.