Foot still turning red and purple after ORIF

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It has been 4 1/2 months since my ORIF surgery. The bone is healed. I'm 80 percent weight bearing. What is really upsetting me is the color my foot turns when it is down. A violent red, sometimes purple. Occasionally even my calf will turn red and mottled.

I saw my surgeon and he diagnosed me with RSD. Except I do not have pain! And my skin is not turning colors from the temperature. It's either up and looks perfect, or down and bright red. Minimal swelling.

I had a leg scan to check for clots and my veins are great. No clots. Just a crazy weird pain on the inside and side of my knee that has been there since surgery. Doctor says it was a torn nerve. 

So so my question here, even tho I know I have asked before (sorry!) is can you guys tell me, in a very specific way, about your recovery from the foot turning colors when down after surgery? I just don't know if this will get better or if I now have venous reflux or something worse for the rest of my life. Am I being really paranoid or do I have something to worry about? Is there anyone else out there whose foot, and sometimes calf, still turned colors four or five months post surgery but got better??

you are all the best and I really appreciate every answer! I have been battling an ear issue which causes severe pain and vertigo, and that is really slowing my recovery (hard to start walking when your dizzy) but I am just so worried about the foot/leg. Thanks again!

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17 Replies

  • Posted

    I had surgery April 19, still red, purple, swollen. 2-1/2 weeks ago I was told I was 90% healed, outer edge of fracture still needed some healing. It hurts to walk on, I'm limping around, but when elevated feels tons better. What you describe is normal for me at least. I also still have pain on inner ankle. I'm just pushing forward through the oak to get things done around my house, plus I have two kids so things need to get done. I'm definitely tired of hurting...

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  • Posted

    Thank you so much Kim. I'm so sorry you are dealing with this too. I would not wish this on my worst enemy!

    So your foot gets red and purple still when you put it down? Does your calf ever turn colors too? The more I weight bear and try to get my ankle back, the worse it all gets. My foot and leg look just fine when they are up. I still get pain in my ankle and foot too, like you. But RSD pain is excrutiatiing. I am ver sure its the wrong diagnosis.

    wishing you healing and better times!

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  • Posted

    What is ORIF surgery ? Did you have a total ankle replacement or what surgery ?

    David

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    • Posted

      Hi david! Not OP but I’d bet money not. ORIF stands for open reduction and internal fixation — I had mine for a fractured fibula, but they’re very common in all kinds of ankle fractures. The surgeon opens up the side of your ankle, re-breaks and sets the bones (reduction) then uses hardware (in my case, a plate and seven screws) to fix the bones in place, then the skin is closed. 

      Some people have external fixation, where the hardware is outside of the skin. 

      Hope this helps!

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    • Posted

      Exactly Kelbelle! I actually had both. An external fixator...it was a huge metal contraption with two bars that went through my calf bone and a bar that went through the ankle. It was awful. I had a trimalleolar fracture and dislocation, so I broke every bone in my ankle and the open reduction was both sides of my ankle. Ten screws and two plates.
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  • Posted

    I can relate to you a lot.. i went through the same thing. It definitely gave a scare thinking something was wrong as well. I had shattered my ankle and im still going through therapy. When i first was able to put partial weight on my bad leg, both my foot and calf would turn  very red/purple. 3-4 weeks into therapy with full weight i can walk on my foot with no color change now.  I was paranoid and still am because i get occasional pain from walking so long but the stronger and more you use it the better it will get. Everyones heals at different speeds so just take it one day at a time. It will get better i promise i didnt think it would at first but now i can walk with barely any worries. Good luck to you! 
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  • Posted

    I had an ankle fusion January 2017, my foot is very red it appears to be spider veins, when I put my leg up it goes away, not sure why this happens. After surgery it was clear and several months later the spider veins appeared they are not sore just very ugly.

     

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    • Posted

      Hi Marian01540

      I’m having my left ankle Fused the end of this month. I am so scared, even though I’ve been in a boot for 6months.  Can you tell me about your surgery? How long did it take? We’re you in out patient or hospital for surgery? Did it hurt a lot after? When could you start walking with knee scooter or crutches. How long was it before you could walk again? I’m afraid of everything, getting blood clots and strokes. I would appreciate anything. Why did you have to have surgery? Was your foot pronating inward? Thank you 🙏 I 

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    • Posted

      Hi Jan,

      I spent a week in hospital because I didn't have anyone to look after me at home. I was non weight bearing for 6 weeks. I used a wheelchair for most of that, as I am pretty hopeless with crutches. Don't remember any pain as was dosed up on pain meds. I had the surgery because after several arthroscopies, I got an infection in the bone. The only way to fix it was the fusion. I walk pretty normal now, however, I do have a built up shoe now. I found that when walking after the surgery my right hip was in agony , it was discovered that my left leg was shorter than my right. Hence to built up shoe. It really has helped. I did lots of physio which was essential as non weight bearing your muscles atrophy and t really helps to build up the muscles again.

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  • Posted

    It took a long time for discoloration to get better; at least five months or so.  Eight months later, there are still days when the toes discolor. The more I strengthened the calf and foot, the better it got. I was told it was because my muscles were so weak they were not pumping the blood back up the leg. Once they got stronger, things got much better.    
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    • Posted

      Thank you Mel! I really needed to hear that. The discoloration when my foot is down is definitely worse since I have been starting to weight bear. I am hoping that it's just my arteries and veins getting back in order. So glad things are better for you!

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    • Posted

      .  I feel for you. Make sure to ask the doc about it next time you go to make certain, but I'm glad I could ease your mind a little bit. Once my calf muscles and foot muscles started working again (mind you, working AT ALL. They're still not working 100%), the coloring improved. Healing and signs of improvement are incremental - I didn't understand HOW incremental till I went through it myself. It took months, and it's still not done. Wishing you continued healing!  

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    • Posted

      Thank you Mel! And all the same right back to you?? Continued healing and better days! Yes, this is something that can't even be explained. There is no understanding it until you experience it. 

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