Ankle Fracture (Broken Ankle)
First, what is the ankle?
The ankle consists of three bones that work together to allow for you to walk. These three bones are the tibia, fibula and the talus. The tibia is your shin bone which forms the front and back of the ankle. The fibula which forms the outside of the ankle and the talus which is the small bone which sits in between the tibia and fibula.
An ankle fracture is commonly caused by twisting injuries, sports injuries, high energy injuries including falls, motor vehicle accidents or other traumatic incidents. A fractured ankle (broken ankle) occurs when one of these bones are broken. With these injuries there can also be damage to the surrounding soft tissue including ligaments and tendons. Ankle fractures can range in severity which can be small avulsion fractures (where a piece of the bone has been pulled off) to more severe fractures in which the bones are broken into multiple pieces and dislocated. Ankle fractures can be both open, in which there not only is a broken ankle but a laceration where the bone can be exposed.
All or some of these symptoms might accompany an ankle fracture. These include
- Pain at the site of the injury site which can extend from the foot to the knee.
- Swelling and Bruising
- Inability to walk
- Bones protruding through the skin
The majority of people are initially seen in the emergency room or doctor's office and x-rays are typically taken at that time to determine the type of fracture and help with treatment recommendations. Dr. Pajouh will use these to determine the extent of the ankle fracture including which bones are broken as well as the level of dislocation and displacement.
It is crucial for immediate evaluation of ankle fractures as these may require emergent surgical intervention. These types of injuries typically require splinting, cast or fracture boot immobilization, ice and elevation, periods of non weight bearing to the side of the injury and possible surgical intervention if deemed necessary by Dr. Pajouh which is based on the appearance of the ankle joint and specific type of fracture. Displaced ankle fractures and fractures of both the tibia and fibula commonly need surgery especially in diabetic patients. Restoring alignment of a broken ankle is essential to help with proper recovery to help limit the amount of ankle arthritis. As the ankle heals after surgery, the joint is protected with restricted activity in a splint, cast or fracture boot.. The cast or boot is worn until the fracture is fully healed, which usually takes 2-3 months. During this time period, Dr. Pajouh will take x rays to confirm proper healing is occuring. Complications from a broken ankle can occur and people suffering from diseases such as diabetics and smokers are at higher risk. Following treatment of ankle fractures surgical or non surgical, Dr. Pajouh may prescribe physical therapy to help with range of motion and strengthening.