Complications may arise after ankle surgery that may prolong the healing process. Some experience nerve damage or other effects.

Ankle surgery is a type of treatment that doctors may recommend if you have bone fractures, arthritis, or tendinitis. Complications are common after surgery, and these can reduce people’s quality of life and increase healthcare costs.

Research shows that those with ankle fractures may have a high risk of developing complications after surgery.

In this article, we’ll talk about the complications that may appear after ankle surgery. We’ll also discuss the recovery process and precautions that you may have to take.

Complications may prolong healing. Some people experience nerve damage or develop:

  • burning or shooting pain
  • ankle, foot, or toe weakness
  • foot or ankle numbness
  • foot or ankle tingling
  • infection at the site of the surgery
  • drainage of fluids
  • improper bone alignment (malreduction)
  • new fracture (loss of fixation of fracture)

The following are warning signs that may indicate that recovery is not going according to plan:

A 2017 research review listed the complications that may occur in people who undergo total ankle arthroplasty, a type of joint replacement surgery. These include:

  • wound complications
  • deep infections
  • fractures
  • loosened prosthesis

Developing an infection after undergoing surgery for an open fracture is possible. Signs may include fever and chills.

Postoperative pain is also common. This can happen if you have a STAR implant, which is a device that a surgeon implants to replace parts of a damaged ankle. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explains that this may indicate that your implant is damaged and an X-ray or CT scan may be needed.

Ankle fracture surgery is the type of ankle surgery that is known to cause numerous complications, according to a 2022 data analysis. These occur in one-third of people who undergo this procedure.

Common complications include:

In one 2022 study, researchers found that long-term outlook may be poor in people with obesity, as they may have a high chance of experiencing pain, reduced ankle function, and impairment.

A 2019 review also showed that wound healing complications can occur in those who smoke cigarettes, as smoking slows the healing process in both the bone and soft tissue. Delayed healing may lead to:

  • wound breakdown
  • infection
  • drainage

Infections can develop after a surgical procedure, and you may have:

  • inflammation
  • pain
  • increase in body temperature
  • healing problems

Ankle replacement surgeries also come with risks, including:

  • numbness
  • formation of blood clots
  • misaligned joint bones
  • nerve damage
  • implant taking a long time to adhere to the bone
  • blood vessel injury
  • new fractures

Ankle pain can happen if you have:

It may be time to see a medical professional if you have undergone a total ankle replacement surgery and have:

  • persistent pain
  • ankle instability
  • grinding noise
  • difficulty putting weight on your ankle

Your doctor may perform a physical exam and imaging tests to examine the problems of your implant.

You may also consider seeking medical care if you have pain and develop redness and swelling after surgery.

It may also be a good idea to seek medical care if you have an ankle sprain. This type of injury is mostly common among people who engage in sport activities.

Your doctor may recommend undergoing surgery if exercise and the following home remedies don’t improve your symptoms:

  • elevation
  • applying ice
  • compression
  • anti-inflammatory medications
  • decreased weight-bearing

Without treatment, ankle sprains can increase the likelihood of complications, including:

Recovery depends on the type of ankle surgery that you undergo.

It can take up to a year to recover from ankle fracture surgery and regain ankle function. In the meantime, your doctor may suggest using crutches, a wheelchair, or a knee scooter and avoiding adding weight to your ankle.

Your ankle may take a long time to heal after undergoing reconstruction surgery. You may have swelling, which can take more than 6 months to heal. You may also attend physiotherapy sessions 3 months after the procedure.

Here are some commonly asked questions about ankle surgery recovery.

How long should pain last after ankle surgery?

You may experience pain and discomfort for up to 4 months following a foot and ankle surgery. If these persist, it may mean that you have:

  • an infection
  • tissue damage
  • nerve damage
  • joint instability
  • traumatic arthritis (which occurs after a trauma)
  • ligament or tendon injury

Your doctor may suggest seeing a physical therapist or joining a rehabilitation program to treat your ankle pain.

What should you do if you accidentally put weight on your foot after ankle surgery?

It’s important to avoid placing weight on your ankle after surgery, as this gives it time to heal. If you accidentally put weight onto your ankle, you may have pain and swelling. If these don’t go away, it may be best to contact your surgeon.

How soon can you walk after ankle surgery?

It may take a few weeks or months until you can start walking after ankle surgery, depending on the procedure. However, you may have to use crutches or other walking aids if you have to walk but can’t put weight on your ankle.

Ankle surgery can be an option for people with ankle sprains or fractures. Complications may occur, and these may include infections, bone fractures, and persistent pain.

Complete recovery can take up to a year, and you may have to avoid putting weight on your foot during the first few weeks after surgery.

If you don’t see any improvement, your doctor can help and offer further treatment.