Ankle Surgery Recovery Pins Plates

Hopefully the arthritis in your feet will go away with the help of orthotics, foot braces, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy and other largely non-invasive treatments. Sometimes, however, surgery is necessary.

Arthroscopic Debridement is an early-stage surgery for foot or ankle arthritis. A flexible, thin instrument called the arthroscope is inserted into the affected joint. This arthroscope has two purposes: The first is to take pictures of the joint so that your doctor has a better idea of where exactly the pain is coming from; the second is to clean away any spurs, inflamed or foreign tissue (a process called debridement).

Another type of surgery commonly used to treat arthritis is called Arthrodesis or Fusion Surgery. In this procedure, a surgeon will fuse the two affected bones so that they will become one continuous bone, eliminating the joint completely. The surgeon accomplishes using pins and screws to hold the bones in place until they naturally fuse together. This surgery is usually very successful. The most common problem occurs when adjacent, formerly healthy joints become affected with arthritis due to the increased pressure they are now under.

In cases where the arthritis is extremely advanced, has destroyed the bones of the ankle or interferes significantly with daily life, Arthroplasty or Joint Replacement Surgery may be necessary. By replacing the joint with prosthesis, a surgeon will not only eliminate pain but also improve the joints mobility. Sometimes the implant fails later in life and will need to be replaced.

Foot and ankle surgery is never something to take lightly. Though a full recovery is possible, the recovery period is long. You can expect to rest your foot for 1 to 2 weeks after the surgery by keeping your foot elevated to chest level. It may be as long as 3 to 4 months before you can resume your usual daily physical activities. In the meantime, physical therapy after the surgery may be necessary to help you regain strength and stability in your foot and ankle. Special post-surgery shoes, braces or crutches may be required. Dont attempt to force your recovering foot into your old shoes. It will need extra support and protection, and your surgeon or podiatrist will be able to tell you what type of shoes to look for. Also, dont be surprised if your recovering foot changes size after the surgery. Swelling may leave it larger than normal for quite some time. Full recovery may not occur for as long as 9 months. Though hopefully you will be on your feet much sooner, you should prepare for a long haul.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. QUESTION:
    Pins and plates in a broken ankle?
    Back on 9/5 I had surgery to have my tibia reattached to my foot (I tore all my ligaments) & the fibula I lost about an inch of my bone. So I had to have 2 plates & about 12 screws put in my leg. But just recently have been feeling shooting pains up the back of my leg, one time I actually fell to the ground, because the pain was so intense. I called the doctor today & I asked what was going on. And he said he thinks I am having a reaction to the plates. So my only option… to have the plates removed. Has anyone had their plates removed in their ankle? How long did the surgery take? How many days were you out of commission? How long before you were back up & walking? Please give me your story. (It had better not be as bad as bad as the first surgery/recovery time was… which was 2 months of no walking on the ankle…)
    Also, how does the ankle feel now with the plates removed? did you return to all of your normal activities?

    • ANSWER:
      Reconstructed ankle. Seven screw and a plate. almost a year healing. I could tell when the clouds were coming in. Every change of weather hurt. I told the Doc I had metal allergies but he said I would not have problems with surgical steel. Wrong. the second year he went back and removed them. I still had to recover but it was DEFINITELY worth it.

      9 years later the promised arthritis is setting in, but removing the weather detectors improved the quality of my life. The second time the healing went much faster, the bones were knitted, it was just stab wounds. The scars are wider, and I still can’t wear cowboy boots.

  2. QUESTION:
    will I ever run again after having ankle surgery???
    I am about to get pins and plates put in my ankle because it is broken on both sides. I am 22 years old and am wondering if its possible to make a “full” recovery after this type of surgery. WILL I EVER BE ABLE TO RUN AGAIN??

    • ANSWER:
      Yes, you will be able to run again. Just make sure you go to physical therapy and do all the exercises they give you and your ankle should be close to what it was before it was broken. One big warning though, in colder weather or stormy weather it might ache.

  3. QUESTION:
    Does a broken ankle return to looking normal after surgery?
    I had a trimalleolar fracture over six months ago and I had ORIF (open reduction internal fixation) of it with a bunch of pins and and a plate to mend the broken tibia and fibula. Fortunately, recovery went great according to the doctor and I am back to full weight bearing with no pain or swelling although I haven’t gone back to running or exercise. My question is primarily about how the ankle looks. There is an odd bump on the medial malleolus where there were a couple of pins inserted and the fixed ankle is much bigger in diameter than the normal one. Does this ever go away and what might be causing this? Any suggestions for improving the appearance of the fixed ankle? Thank you in advance :)

    • ANSWER:
      I seriously doubt it. I broke my heel bone about 15 years ago. The web around the achilles tendon is still swollen (not painful or even sensitive, just swollen), the ankle itself is still stiff (50 to 60 percent range of motion) and I have light to moderate pain in the heel most of the time.

      From my perspective; if I was pain free and had good mobility of the ankle I would be delighted.

  4. QUESTION:
    Post-ORIF ankle surgery, is this normal?
    I had the surgery about a week ago in my right ankle, got a few pins put in my tibia to reattach a tip that chipped off and a plate with screws on my fibula to hold it straight. The fibula-side doesn’t give me any problems at all. But I can feel the inside-side of my ankle pulsating and quivering nearly all day. It isn’t painful perse, just a little uncomfortable, is that how ligaments and bones feel to heal?

    I’m worried that it might be an infection, but looking online I feel like an infection would make itself fairly obvious to me fairly quickly. Am I feeling the start of an infection or just normal bone/ligament repair? These were my first broken bones, and my first surgery ever, so I’m not really sure how to expect it to feel.

    other stuff that might help:
    The surgery lasted an hour longer than originally estimated, 3.5hours instead of 2.5hours. Apparently my orthopedist had trouble getting the bone into position and I think they had to move(or remove) parts of ligaments to get it into place. The orthopedist told my father after surgery while I was in recovery that his hands and arms were tired and soar after the operation. My ankle got super swollen in the 3 days before I saw an orthopedist after the break and had to spend 10 days getting the swelling down, getting fracture blisters removed, and waiting for them to heal. So it makes sense that my ligaments got a fair bit of healing done.

    I’m essentially off of Percocet at this point, although a couple nights I’ve gotten frustrated trying to get to sleep getting my ankle to lie just right and have taken one to get to sleep faster.

    I’ve taken a few showers so far, but I waited 4 days (yeah eww) after surgery to take the first one and was pretty careful using multiple plastic bags to cover it.

    I can also see blood-stains if I pull the wrap back to look at the plaster cast under it. It isn’t wet on the outside and it hasn’t spread at all, plus I think I’d feel really woozy or something if I was still bleeding.
    I want to go into more detail into how my ankle feels.
    Very mild itch, the feeling is similar to when you think theres an ant crawling on your arm and you look over and its nothing, you scratch it real quick and forget about it.
    Every few minutes I’ll feel the area quiver quickly on its own, and if i wiggle my toes for a few seconds I can cause it to quiver every 2-3 wiggles.
    I can also feel my heartbeat on my ankle if I lay still and concentrate on it.
    Theres a lot of free-space in my cast, right around the ankle. Its tight around the toes and around the calf. But I can fit 3-4 fingers in the top of the cast when its been elevated for a while, but even when I neglect to elevate it for a few hours and the calf starts to get tight I still feel like theres a lot of free space near the ankle. atleast a centimeter or 2.

    • ANSWER:
      Any quivering should be from nerves or muscles. They don’t like to be bothered either so anything new, plus how they had to be treated to get a plate in there is going to make them a little unhappy. To get rid of it, just press in on top of it and hold the pressure for about thirty seconds. That should release whatever it was under there.

  5. QUESTION:
    What is recovery, rehab and healing time after an ORIF trimalleolar surgery?
    I fell at work on 4/22/10. I had surgery on 5/7/10. 2 plates, a BUNCH of screws (I didn’t count) and one pin, which they tell me will be removed in about 6 months. The final “hard” cast was removed on 6/18. I now have a big ol’ black boot. I go to PT 2x a week. While I am there, I am allowed to walk about 15 feet with 2 shoes and no other support. I do tons of stretching exercises at home as well. My foot and ankle a still VERY swollen and still hurts! Not enough to be taking pain killers but enough to bug the heck out of me! One of my 2 incision sites is very sensitive and even the weight of my sheet on my bed irritates it.
    I don’t do much because it is very uncomfortable to stand or even sit for long periods of time. I am following doctors and PT orders to the letter, as I am NOT a tennis shoe girl, and I want my heels!! LOL I just want to be able to drive myself to the bank, or take one of my children to work… Anyone know how long this takes to heal?

    I’ve read and researched, and all I seem to find are horror stories!

    • ANSWER:

  6. QUESTION:
    Hardware removal in my ankle?
    I broke my tibia and fibula near my ankle in March 2006 from a car accident. I had to have surgery to have 2 pins and 1 plate put in. I still have pain and swelling in my ankle (after 2 1/2 years). I can’t walk, stand on it for very long (hurts withing 15 min( affecting jobs)) let alone run. I’m deciding whether or not to get the hardware removed? I’m only 19 and have the rest of my life to live and don’t want to be dragged down by constant pain and swelling. Does anyone have advice or any testimonies to help me out. If I do get the hardware removed what should I expect the pain level to be/ recovery time. Greatly appreciated.
    I’ve seen the OS and he said that it was basically my choice. He gave me the pros and cons. I’ll be recovering for 4-6 weeks.

    • ANSWER:
      it is another surgery and any time surgery disturbs the bones there is pain. The amount depends on your tolerance. Recovery time is pretty much 4 – 6 weeks … assuming you can stay off the foot 100% of the time. Although thats not possible, thats still what you should shoot for. Aside from normal healing .. remember that your feet and ankles are at the bottom of you when you stand … so gravity pulling your body down will not help healing. When dealing with bones .. and sepecially foot and/or ankle. if the doc tells you stay of it for this long … you really should stay off it. To do otherwise will only prolng the healing and pain. Theres also no fuarantee that the ankle will be better when the hardware is removed. But thats the chance you take. Seeing as how your young, I would say the odds are in your favor for a good recovery.

  7. QUESTION:
    I hurt myself badly?? (Please read, sorry it’s long)?
    Hey everyone. I’d like to let you all know that I had a little bit of a mishap last Tuesday when I was off of school for a snow day… so, my friend was over, and we were outside. I slipped on some ice that was on the stairs, and ended up falling down them. I had fallen primarily on my right leg, but I had also put my left hand out to break my fall. Anyways, I broke my tibia and near my ankle, and just under my knee as well, and my hip is very sore and bruised. My wrist is a grade 2 sprain. So here’s what happened after I fell. I was taken to the ER, I got x-rays of my entire leg, and my wrist. The breaks in my leg were displaced, but there was a lot of swelling so they reset my leg and put it in a splint that went up just past my knee (until last Saturday). My wrist was put in a splint as well. I was given a pair of crutches, and sent home. When I went back on Saturday they took measurements to make a custom fit walking boot for later on, they took more x-rays, and drugged me up so they could put pins in to hold the bones in place (they had already started to shift) I told them I wanted to avoid surgery at all costs, and that I also wanted to avoid any permanent metal rods, screws, plates, etc. seeing as I play a lot of sports, and am very active. So, they decided that pins were my best option. After the procedure, I got a cast put on that went past my knee, (a white one) and that was it. I was told that I’m in cast for 3 weeks, after which I get my pins removed. And then for the remaining 3-5 weeks of initial healing time, I’m in my boot, which they said will be custom made to go up past my knee, and have a horseshoe shape cut out at the front that will end below my kneecap. It seems really weird.. I was also told that I may have to wear my boot after the initial injury heals, but they also told me it’s going to be really awkward to walk in because I have to keep my leg straight because of how it’s formed.. Everything seems so weird and unusual to me right now.. But like any other injury I’ve had I am in a lot of pain… But I did return to school this past Tuesday, and I felt sort of embarrassed having my friends carry all of my stuff to my classes, and make sure I didn’t fall going up and down the stairs on my crutches. How would you feel if this all of this had happened to you? Oh, and what meds might you reccomend for the pain? How long before I make a full recovery, given I go to physio after my cast/boot are both off and take care of myself during and after the healing process? Thanks so much guys, sorry this is long, but I thought I would explain the situation.

    • ANSWER:
      Shawna, sorry that all that has happened to you. An interesting selection you made when it came time for making a decision as to the method of stabilization. You are going to have to look at things a little differently. You are lucky that the orthopedist was able to accommodate your wishes. I am not sure if this would have been the fastest way to recovery but the choice has been made. Why be embarrassed about having friends carry your stuff? You are lucky in that you have friends that are willing to do this for you otherwise where would you be? As for the meds I would stick to what they prescribed for you. I am sure that the doctor also told you that the use of Motrin or Alieve would also be okay. Check with them to be sure. You are looking at about 3 months before you get back to feeling fairly normal. Take care.