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Foot Drop After Knee Surgery: Why It is Important to Get Addressed Early

Foot Drop After Knee Surgery in Athletes: Why It is Important to Get Addressed Early

Knee surgery can restore function and mobility to your joint and leg after an injury. Your provider gives you anesthesia to keep you comfortable. In many cases, you receive a peripheral nerve block, which reduces the need for opioid drugs and minimizes pain after your procedure. 

For some patients, however, the peripheral nerve block administered during knee surgery can damage the nerves, causing a condition called foot drop, which makes it difficult to lift your foot when walking. 

This condition isn’t common, and when diagnosed and treated early, most patients recover. But when treatment is delayed, the condition may become permanent or need involved treatments to address. 

If you suspect foot drop, don’t wait to schedule a consultation at Anthony Echo, M.D., at one of our multiple offices in Houston, Texas. As a board-certified surgeon with extensive experience in peripheral nerve surgery and microsurgery, Dr. Echo specializes in diagnosing and treating foot drop. 

Here’s a closer look at this frustrating condition, why it’s important to seek early medical attention, and the treatments available to help.

Recognizing the signs of foot drop

During knee surgery, it’s possible for your peroneal nerve to get compressed or damaged—especially if you had a peripheral nerve block. This nerve is responsible for helping your leg move by sending signals to your feet and toes. 

Damage or compression to the peroneal nerve makes it challenging to lift the toe-end of your foot as you walk. You might need to lift your knee, like when you’re going up the stairs, to walk. You might also notice your toes scraping or dragging when you walk.

Other signs you might have foot drop include:

Most people (over 95%) do not experience foot drop after knee surgery. Foot drop usually develops in older (over 65), male patients with pre-existing conditions that increase their risk of nerve-related injury, including: 

It is possible, however, for anyone to develop foot drop if the nerve is compressed or damaged. For these reasons, be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor if you experience any of the signs of the condition. 

The importance of addressing foot drop early

If you’ve had knee surgery and experience any signs of foot drop, it’s important to see a medical provider as soon as possible—within three months. This is because most cases of foot drop resolve with early treatment, meaning your normal walking gait returns. 

On the other hand, waiting to treat post-surgery foot drop can lead to serious complications, including:

The good news is that by seeking treatment from a nerve expert, most foot drop cases have an excellent prognosis after treatment. 

Treating foot drop after knee surgery

The right foot drop treatment depends on your symptoms, medical history, and current health. Dr. Echo evaluates your symptoms and creates a personalized foot drop treatment plan to meet your unique needs. 

He typically begins with more conservative treatments first, like physical therapy; personalized exercises; shoe, ankle, or leg orthotics; and electrical nerve stimulation. If these treatments don’t help, we may recommend surgical intervention.

As a nerve surgery expert, Dr. Echo has extensive experience performing common peroneal nerve compression surgery. During this surgery, he releases the compression on the affected nerve. Over time, it heals, and your symptoms resolve. 

If you’ve had knee surgery and are experiencing any symptoms of foot drop, schedule an appointment online or over the phone at Anthony Echo, M.D., in Houston as soon as possible. 

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