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Surgery FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions About Foot & Ankle Surgery

How long after surgery will my stitches be removed?

You will be given a postoperative instruction sheet that will tell you when to have your sutures (stitches) removed. Generally, stitches will be removed approximately 14 days (give or take a few days) after surgery. You will be asked to return to the Foot & Ankle Clinic at St. Paul’s Hospital for your stitches to be removed. Your appointment at the Foot & Ankle Clinic should be made through your surgeon’s office. Please do not go to your family physician, a walk in clinic or an emergency department to have your stitches removed – contact your surgeon’s office.

What may cause my surgery to be cancelled?

  • Smoking or using any other form of nicotine (e.g. patches, nicotine gum) within 6 weeks of surgery.
  • Eating prior to surgery. Do not eat or drink after midnight, the night before your surgery is scheduled.
  • Lack of hospital beds for those patients required to stay in the hospital after surgery.
  • Medical conditions arising AFTER your pre-admission clinic visit: infected ingrown toe nails and skin infections.
  • Colds leading to fever, chills and phlegm.
  • Chest pain and any new heart condition.

Please contact your surgeon’s office or the pre-admission clinic at St. Paul’s to discuss a condition that will affect your surgery. Ultimately, your surgeon will determine if surgery is appropriate.

How long will it take for me to recover from my surgery?

It will take three to six months before you feel a definite improvement in the comfort of your foot. The swelling may take over a year to settle down. The range of motion may also take over a year to improve.

When can I start driving again?

Your surgeon CANNOT determine when you are safe to drive. However, you probably won’t be able to drive for about 10 weeks after surgery. After 10 weeks you should demonstrate to a friend or family member than you can safely drive. If you have any questions about your ability to drive, please contact an ICBC driver licensing office.

When can I return to work?

Your return to work is dependent upon the occupation you have, the surgery performed, the amount of pain you experience, and if there are any complications from surgery (e.g. delayed bone healing). Some patients may return to work during the non-weight bearing period after surgery. The non-weight bearing period differs depending on the operation you’ve had. Some patients’ work demands (e.g. logging, construction) will require full recovery before they can return to work. In some cases the surgery will not allow you to return to your prior occupation.

Consider the following to help you determine if you’re ready to return to work:

Can you work while not bearing weight on the foot? If so, pain will be the main limiting factor. It is unlikely that you will be able to work for at least three weeks after the surgery.

If you have to bear weight on the foot and you have had a fusion, it will take you three months, minimum, to be able to bear weight on the foot. It will usually take six weeks after that to be comfortable enough to return to work. If the pain is slow to go away, it may take longer. If you develop a nonunion (the bones are taking longer than usual to join) then it may take up to a year off work to recover if the surgery has to be repeated.

Discuss the timing of the surgery with your boss and your surgeon, who may be able to change the date of your surgery to accommodate your work.

Try to sort out disability forms and payments before your surgery. Make sure you know what you are eligible for with your medical plan.

Will the screws in my foot trigger the metal detector at the airport?

Usually, screws and any hardware used in your operation will NOT trigger the alarm at the security gate. If the alarm does ring, you will be required to show your surgery scar. The security guard will wave the metal detector over your scar. You do NOT require a letter from your surgeon stating you have had surgery.