A fracture is a break in a bone, either partial or complete. When it comes to ankle fractures, they can vary in severity, from small pieces of bone breaking off to severe shattering-type breaks of the tibia, fibula, or both. Ankle fractures are a common injury, often caused by the ankle rolling inward or outward. Many people confuse an ankle fracture with an ankle sprain, but it’s important to know that they are quite different and require an accurate and early diagnosis. It’s always recommended to see a foot and ankle surgeon, like Dr Gilbert Huang DPM, for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Symptoms of Ankle Fracture:
Ankle fractures are accompanied by one or all of the following symptoms:
– Pain at the site of the fracture, which in some cases can extend from the foot to the knee
– Significant swelling, which may occur along the length of the leg or may be more localized
– Blisters may occur over the fracture site. These should be promptly treated by a foot and ankle surgeon.
– Bruising that develops soon after the injury
– Inability to walk. However, it’s possible to walk with less severe breaks, so never rely on walking as a test of whether a bone has been fractured
– Change in the appearance of the ankle. It will look different from the other ankle.
– Bone protruding through the skin. This is a sign that immediate care is needed. Fractures that pierce the skin require immediate attention because they can lead to severe infection and prolonged recovery.
Following an ankle injury, it’s important to have the ankle evaluated by a foot and ankle surgeon for proper diagnosis and treatment. If you are unable to do so right away, go to the emergency room and then follow up with a foot and ankle surgeon as soon as possible for a more thorough assessment. The affected limb will be examined by the surgeon by touching specific areas to evaluate the injury. In addition, the surgeon may order x-rays and other imaging studies, as necessary.
Treatment of ankle fractures depends upon the type and severity of the injury. At first, the foot and ankle surgeon will prescribe the R.I.C.E. protocol:
– Rest: Stay off the injured ankle. Walking may cause further injury.
– Ice: Apply an ice pack to the injured area, placing a thin towel between the ice and the skin. Use ice for 20 minutes and then wait at least 40 minutes before icing again.
– Compression: An elastic wrap should be used to control swelling.
– Elevation: The ankle should be raised slightly above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.
Additional treatment options include immobilization. Certain fractures are treated by protecting and restricting the ankle and foot in a cast or splint. This allows the bone to heal. Also, the surgeon may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs or pain medications to relieve the pain.
When is Surgery Needed?
For some ankle fractures, surgery is inevitable and needed to repair the fracture and other soft tissue related injuries, if present. The foot and ankle surgeon will select the procedure that is appropriate for your injury.
It’s important to follow your surgeon’s instructions after treatment. Failure to do so can lead to infection, deformity, arthritis, and chronic pain. Ankle fracture recovery time can vary depending on the severity of the fracture, but it can take several months for complete recovery. Physical therapy may be recommended to help restore strength, joint mobility, and flexibility.
In conclusion, ankle fractures can vary from mild to severe and require proper diagnosis and treatment from a foot and ankle surgeon. Ignoring the pain and symptoms can lead to chronic pain or more serious complications. Dr Gilbert Huang DPM is a reputable foot and ankle surgeon with years of experience on treating ankle fractures. If you have any symptoms of ankle fractures or suspect to have one, please make an appointment with Dr Gilbert Huang DPM to prevent any further complications.