Ankle Fractures

The ankle joint is made up of three bones.

  • Tibia - the large shin bone which makes up the top and inner side (medial aspect) of the ankle joint.
  • Fibula -the smaller bone making up the outside (lateral aspect) of the ankle joint.
  • Talus - the dome shaped lower bone of the ankle joint.

 

What is an ankle fracture?

A fracture is a ‘break in the bone’. A fracture to any of the three bones mentioned above around the ankle joint constitutes an ankle fracture. It normally occurs due to a twisting injury to the ankle.

Ankle FractureAnkle Fracture

Broadly speaking, ankle fractures are either ‘a stable ankle fracture’ or an ‘unstable ankle fracture’.

  • Stable ankle fractures - here the ‘joint remains intact’. These are injuries which can usually be treated without surgery as the broken bone is extremely unlikely to displace further when one walks on it after the injury.
  • Unstable ankle fractures - these are injuries in which the ankle joint is out of position and displaced. Walking on them will cause further displacement of the fracture. These types of injuries require surgery to fix the fracture.



What are the symptoms of an ankle fracture?

There is severe pain and swelling around the ankle joint immediately following a fracture. Sometimes there is an obvious deformity, with the foot pointing in the wrong direction if there has been a dislocation.

How is the fracture diagnosed?

A clinical examination and Xrays are necessary. In some fractures a CT scan may be required to further study the fracture pattern if surgery is required.

Can the condition worsen?

Ankle arthritis pain initially can be a nuisance factor. It may however progress gradually over many years to cause significant pain and restricted mobility.

What treatment options are there?

The treatment depends on the type of fracture about the ankle.If the shape and anatomy of the ankle is not accurately restored, the cartilage lining of the ankle is disturbed, which will inevitably lead to arthritis. The goal of treating all ankle fractures is to reposition the bones as accurately as possible, so as to prevent the occurrence of arthritis. A stable fracture will be immobilised in a plaster cast to maintain position until it heals. This usually takes 6 weeks. Generally speaking one is allowed to walk on the affected leg with a stable fracture.

Unstable fractures require surgery.Surgery is performed with incision(s) on one or both sides of the ankle. Screws and/or a metal plate are inserted in order to accurately restore or reduce the fracture alignment.

How long will it take for me to recover and are there any long term problems following this type of injury?

It normally takes 6 to 8 weeks for the bone to heal completely. Healing can be delayed if you smoke.

Usually recovery is complete and one might notice the occasional mild pain and stiffness in the ankle. In severe injuries one might develop arthritis due to the injury.

 
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