What is Ankle Fracture?
A fractured ankle refers to a fracture in the four bones which make up the two ankle joints. These bones are the dorsal tibia and distal fibula, which extend from the leg, the talus bone of the ankle, and the calcaneus bone of the heel. The subtalar joint of the ankle allows the inward and outward motion of the ankle.
Causes of Ankle Fracture
Trauma or injury causes the fractured ankle to any of the bones of the ankle. Based on the cause of the fracture, it is classified into three types:
- Traumatic Fractures.
- Stress Fractures.
- Pathological Fractures.
Symptoms of a Fractured Ankle
The symptoms depend on the severity and type of fracture. Some of the symptoms may include:
- The patient may feel severe and acute pain at the location of the fracture. The pain may radiate into the whole ankle.
- The patient may experience swelling in the ankle.
- The ankle may be bruised, and the skin will be discolored.
- The ankle will be tender to the touch.
- The patient will not be able to put weight on foot; walking or standing may be extremely difficult.
- The ankle bone may jut out at an abnormal angle. This symptom is reserved for bimalleolar or trimalleolar fractures.
How is a Fractured Ankle Treated?
The purpose of medical treatment for ankle fracture is to decrease pain, prevent further damage, confirm the neurovascular status of the injured limb, and mend the bone.
The treatment depends on its classification as:
Stress Fracture Ankle Treatment
Stress fractures are hairline fractures, which are caused by overuse injuries. This treatment includes the following:
- The doctor recommends the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate) protocol.
- The doctor will recommend limited movement to keep weight off the ankle.
- The doctor may prescribe a splint, brace, or protective footwear.
- The doctor will prescribe NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and pain medication to reduce pain.
Stable Fracture Ankle Treatment
In stable fractures, the bone is broken in a way that does not require realignment. Type A and avulsion fracture ankle treatment include the following:
- The doctor initially treats the area with RICE protocol.
- The doctor will partially immobilize the boot with the help of a brace or protective footwear like a walking boot.
- The doctor will recommend that the patient does not bear weight and limit their movement to allow the fracture to heal.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and pain medication are prescribed to relieve pain.
- Stable fractures do not require surgical treatment. The bone heals itself after a period of rest.
- Rehabilitation through physical therapy.
Unstable Fracture Ankle Treatment
The treatment of an unstable fracture requires surgery. The goals of this surgery are:
- Re-aligning and repositioning the broken bones and joints.
- Joining the broken bone with the help of screws, rods, and plates.
- Repairing the fractured syndesmotic joint.
- Repairing the broken syndesmotic ligaments with sutures or grafts.
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How Long Does It Take a Fractured Ankle to Heal?
- In most cases, it takes at least six weeks to heal.
- For involved tendons and ligaments, it may take a long time to recuperate.
What Happens If a Fracture Is Left Untreated?
- If left untreated, the pain experienced from a fracture will worsen with time.
- You can experience misalignment, limited movement, visible deformities, and infection.
Do Fractures Show up on Xray?
- Most fractures can be recognized by examining the injury or by taking X-rays.
- If a fracture is not identified in X-rays, doctors take other tests, like computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or a bone scan.
Can You Make a Fracture Worse?
- If left untreated, it can become a source of pain or even lead to disability.
- It is advisable to change your activities and receive proper medical care from professionals.