An ankle fracture is a break in one or more of the three bones that make up the ankle joint. The break can occur in the tibia, the fibula, the talus, or a combination of bones depending on the severity of the injury.
How Do Ankle Fractures Occur?
When the ankle is forced beyond its normal range, either inward or outward, a fracture can occur. Ankle sprains are caused by the same type of activity, albeit at a reduced severity. Fractures commonly occur when running or jumping on an uneven surface or when the foot is firmly planted and the body is twisted. Poor-fitting footwear or sport-related equipment can also attribute to some fractures.
Signs and Symptoms of an Ankle Fracture
A fractured ankle will usually appear very swollen and in some cases there may be mild to severe bruising. Moderate to severe pain will also be experienced whenever attempting to move the ankle. Diagnosis is usually confirmed via an X-ray of the affected foot and in some cases, a CT scan or MRI will be ordered to evaluate the tendons and cartilage around the ankle to determine whether or not they suffered any damage related to the accident.
Conservative Treatment Options for Ankle Fractures
Most non-severe ankle fractures can be successfully treated without surgery. In these cases, a cast or splint is used to help stabilize the ankle joint. The ankle is immobilized for several weeks in order for the bones to mend. Once the cast or splint is removed, the patient will usually partake in a course of physical therapy to help strengthen the muscles around the ankle.
When is Surgery Needed?
If the ankle has experienced a severe fracture that is not treatable by conservative means, then the doctors at Pennsylvania Foot and Ankle Associates may recommend surgery to repair the break. If this is the case, ankle will be stabilized using a series of screws and plates. A cast will be applied once surgery is completed to further immobilize the foot during the recovery period. Recovery from ankle surgery can take anywhere from four to eight weeks depending on the severity of the injury.