Preparing for your Ankle Replacement

Orthopaedic & Spine Center


Dr. Joel Stewart

Joel D. Stewart, MD

Now that you’ve decided a Total Ankle Arthroplasty (TAA) is the right treatment option for your ankle pain and disability, here is a planning guide to assist you with preparations up to the date of your surgery.

Surgical Scheduling – At OSC, my surgical scheduler will work with you to choose a date for your surgery.  Things to consider before choosing a surgical date are:

  • Taking time off work
  • Arranging for assistance at home after surgery
  • How long your recovery may take
  • How long it will take for preoperative screening (COVID, Primary care, cardiology, etc. if needed)

Because the recovery period for ankle replacement is lengthy, you might want to complete it during the winter holiday season, when it is cold and you don’t mind staying indoors.  Others may prefer warmer weather, so that they can recuperate while sitting outside enjoying the sunshine. You may have slower periods at work when taking leave will be easier for your employer. You may wish to have your surgery done by a certain date, due to insurance coverage and having met your yearly out-of-pocket deductible. Consider these issues before you make the decision.

Make an AppointmentYour surgical scheduler will either give you crutches, walker, wheelchair, iWalk or a knee scooter (and adjust them for your height) or will order one of these for your use while you recover.  You will be able to take it with you when you leave our office, or you can pick it up before your surgery.

Pre-operative Medical Clearances and Health Checks – if you have pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, you will need to obtain surgical clearances from your PCP or other treating physicians that you are healthy enough to undergo surgery.  If you have dental issues, those should be treated before preceding to surgery. Allow enough time to schedule and attend these appointments before your procedure.

Pre-operative Diagnostic Testing – I may order a new CT scan or MRI of your ankle, foot and leg to assist me in planning your operation.  These must be authorized by your insurance company and may take time to schedule. You will also be tested for COVID-19 before your surgery by the hospital team, as well as having a pre-operative exam by the anesthesia team.

At Home Preparations – After your ankle replacement surgery, you’ll be on crutches or a knee scooter for 4-6 weeks, non-weight bearing. Here are some issues to consider:

  • You will need accessible pathways to the bathroom, kitchen and bedroom.  Clear all mats and throw rugs from these areas as they are a fall hazard.
  • If you live alone, arrange for someone to drive you to and from the hospital, take you to post-surgical appointments and to stay with you for the first few days after you leave the hospital
  • Your spouse or partner will need to take time off work to care for you after surgery  
  • Consider getting a shower chair to make post-surgical bathing easier.  Purchase plastic garbage bags and tape to cover your ankle while showering, as getting the dressing and incision wet can increase the chances of infection.
  • Prepare and freeze food for easy reheating during your recuperative period.  Purchase comforting, easily digestible food and beverage items for the first portion of your recovery period, as anesthesia may cause post-operative nausea.  Try to eat nutritious foods in small portions as you recover to help your body heal.
  • Practice using your crutches or knee scooter before surgery.  Try maneuvering around the house, into the bathroom and the kitchen.  Practice getting in and out of chairs and the bed, without bearing weight on your soon to be replaced ankle.

Preparing Your Body for Surgery – what I recommend for my patients

  • Quit smoking! Smoking greatly retards healing after surgery, increases post-operative pain, and increases the risk for complications
  • Lose weight – even a small amount of weight loss before surgery can be helpful
  • Eat nutritious foods in small portions – Lay off the junk food!
  • Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated
  • Get some exercise – there are a multitude of ways to exercise that don’t involve putting weight on your painful ankle.  Do some form of physical activity every day before surgery.


Make an appointment with Dr. Stewart or another OSC provider by clicking the “Request Appointment” button below or by calling (757) 596-1900.