Ankle Fractures

Understanding Your Condition

What is an ankle fracture?

Broken ankles, also known as ankle fractures, occur when one or more bones in the ankle joint are fractured. The ankle joint is made up of the tibia, the fibula, and the talus. The parts of the tibia and fibula that make up the ankle include the medial malleolus, lateral malleolus, and posterior malleolus. Ankle fractures are classified based on what bone is broken. Types of breaks can include a lateral malleolus fracture and bimalleolar fracture. Joints commonly involved in ankle fractures include the ankle joint and the syndesmosis joint. The severity of ankle fractures can range due to the complexity of the break. A severe fracture can leave the ankle very unstable. The articular cartilage and ligaments can be damaged in a break as well.

What are the causes and symptoms of ankle fractures?

Causes of ankle fractures can vary and include twisting the ankle, rolling the ankle, trauma such as car accidents, jumps from high levels, or trips and falls. Symptoms of ankle fractures include deformity of the ankle, tenderness when touched, bruising, swelling, and severe pain.

How are ankle fractures diagnosed and treated?

Treatment for ankle fractures can vary depending on the severity of the injury. Immediately after an ankle fracture, patients should try to not put any weight on the ankle and keep the ankle elevated to decrease swelling. The patient may also apply ice packs and take over-the-counter analgesics, such as acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. In order to diagnose a fractured ankle, a doctor may order x-rays or CT scans. The doctor may also perform a stress test, where pressure will be put on the ankle during an x-ray. These tests will determine whether or not surgery is required and can rule out other diagnoses such as ankle sprains. Nonsurgical treatment for ankle fractures can include cast immobilization. Ankle fractures may require surgery. Surgical treatments can vary based on the severity and type of ankle fracture, and fractures can be repaired using plates and screws. After surgery, the patient will need to keep weight off of the ankle and will need a brace or cast. The patient will also be prescribed physical therapy which will help them regain mobility and strength in the ankle. It takes an average of six weeks for an ankle fracture to heal and up to twelve weeks for severe injuries.

Learn more from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Make an appointment with our specialists to discuss your options.

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