Five Steps to Optimize Recovery After Total Ankle Replacement

Dr. James P. Halloran, orthopedic surgeon, discusses ankle replacement with a patient.

As an orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon, I treat a lot of patients with severe ankle arthritis and other conditions not relieved through non-surgical care. Depending on the condition and other health factors, one increasingly common treatment option is total ankle replacement. Using a combination of three total ankle replacement systems and a multitude of cartilage restoration techniques, I tailor my ankle treatment to fit each patient’s unique needs.

Recovery time varies by a range of individual factors. In most cases, patients can resume daily activities within three to four months after surgery, although they may need to wear supportive shoes or a brace to continue the healing process for a while longer. (See my related blog “Understanding Total Ankle Replacement” for more information about recovery and other commonly asked questions regarding ankle replacement.)

If you are preparing for a total ankle replacement, here are five steps you can take to optimize recovery after surgery:

Keep your ankle elevated.

Weight-bearing activity can begin a few weeks after surgery. To reduce pain and swelling, it is important to elevate your ankle above the heart for one to two weeks after your ankle replacement procedure.

Get up and moving as soon as possible.

When possible, and if permitted by your surgeon, you should begin gentle, non-weight-bearing activities to regain strength and restore range of motion. Physical therapy also helps improve mobility, independence and quality of life.

Recognize warning signs.

To ensure proper healing and prevent injury, know the red flags such as signs of an infection or blood clots that may occur after surgery. If you notice any of the following signs or have any other concerns or complications, contact your physician immediately.

Signs of infection:

  • Persistent fever (higher than 100 degrees)
  • Chills
  • Increased redness
  • Tenderness or swelling
  • Increased pain

Signs of a blood clot:

  • Tenderness
  • Redness
  • Severe swelling

Rearrange furniture for optimized mobility.

Remove objects like rugs and other clutter in your path that may cause you to slip and fall as you move about your home or work space. I also recommend securely fastening electrical cords to reduce the risk of tripping and falling.

Make everyday objects more accessible.

Place items you use frequently, such as your phone, remote control, reading glasses and medications, within easy reach so you can access them without having to move up or down more than necessary.

Read my Post-Op FAQs for patients having foot and ankle surgery, and watch my video below if you’d like to hear more about conservative treatment options that should be tried before considering ankle surgery. To consult with us about your orthopedic health, please make an appointment by calling 913-319-7600.

James P. Halloran, M.D., Orthopedic SurgeonAbout the Author: James Halloran, M.D. is a board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon whose primary clinical interest focuses on diagnosis and treatment of conditions involving the knee, ankle, and foot. Dr. Halloran completed fellowship training in both sports medicine and foot/ankle surgery. 


The medical information contained in the Dickson-Diveley Orthopaedics website is provided to increase your knowledge and understanding of orthopedic conditions. This information should not be interpreted as a recommendation for a specific medical or surgical treatment plan. As each patient may have specific symptoms or associated problems, the treatment regimen for a specific patient may not be the proper treatment for another.

Gaining knowledge and understanding of a particular problem or condition is the first step in any medical treatment plan. I believe the information presented on our website will be helpful for those individuals experiencing ankle pain, or other related problems. However, this information is not intended to replace the advice of your family physician. You are encouraged to consult with your physician to discuss any course of treatment presented or suggested.