Ankle fractures can occur in the tibia and/or fibula, as well as the other 26 bones in the foot and vary in severity due to the positioning or type of injury. Unlike sprains, which stress or tear ligaments, fractures vary in severity from a “crack” in the bone to complete separation or break in multiple pieces.
All ankle injuries, especially ones where a fracture is suspected need to be evaluated by a physician with standard x-rays taken or other advanced testing (MRI or CT).
The decision between conservative (non-surgical) and surgical treatment depends on the type and severity of injury. Fractures generally require surgery, but conservative treatment for maintenance before and after may be necessary.
Fractures in the foot often need protection from motion. Minimizing movement and keeping pressure off the area is the best way to minimize separation of the fractured bone. Crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and strollers are also helpful when it comes to weight bearing. Patients shouldn’t bear weight anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks.
Insulated cold packs applied on and off of the injury site for 72 hours helps to reduce swelling and discomfort. After 72 hours, alternating ice and heat every 15 to 20 minutes will help with the bruising and continued swelling.
Anti-inflammatory medication can help with chronic pain, but is not much help with the acute pain involving ankle fractures. Multivitamins, especially ones rich in C and D with calcium, will help the healing process.
To help with immobilization and protection, casts can be used around the fractured area. Casts can be removable with Velcro straps or molded to the foot and ankle with plaster or fiberglass.
If a bone fracture is slow to heal after 6 weeks, a portable light weight machine can be placed around the fracture a few minutes out of the day to increase the chances of bone healing.
A break in the skin in an area of a fracture is a medical emergency and will require surgery to prevent serious health complications caused by infection.
Bones that cannot be put back together in the office require surgery. Fractures that are inside a joint also require surgery to help minimize the likelihood of arthritis in the future.
Surgery is either done right after the injury, or 1 to 2 weeks after the injury. Screws and thin strips of strong metal can be used to put the bone back together which allows the fracture the fastest and best chance of healing.
This method of surgery allows a return to walking in 6 to 8 weeks depending on the fracture type and healing potential of the patient.
Sometimes a complex fracture requires extra stability. The extra stability can be provided externally by something that looks like a small “cage” around the ankle.
This device helps to absorb forces away from the injury while reducing the length of surgical openings caused to the skin in order to fix the bone damage.
Incomplete ankle fractures can take 3 to 4 weeks to heal, while complete ankle fractures with or without surgery can be expected to heal in 6 to 8 weeks.
Yes, a cast immobilizes the fracture and ensures the fastest healing time for a fractured ankle. A cast boot or CAM walker can serve the same purpose if it is not taken off. This is the preferred option for most patients since you can remove the walker when the patient isn’t bearing weight or when they’re bathing.
Yes, a non-displaced fracture or one that is in ‘good alignment’ with a 2 to 4mm maximum separation can heal without surgery. Ankle stress fractures can heal with partial weight-bearing with a CAM walker.
Yes, your ankle will be the same after a fracture if the ligaments and joints structures (cartilage) are not damaged. Healed bone fractures can be just as strong as they were before the fractures.
The cost to treat a broken ankle is dependent upon the patient’s insurance policy, deductible, and copays. Without surgery, cash pay can range from $500 to $1,500 including office visits, x rays, casting, and follow ups.
If surgery is warranted, ankle surgery costs do increase considerably to include the operating facility, anesthesia, and equipment costs ranging from $7500-$15,000. With insurance, the costs are considerably lower and depend upon the contract.
Healed fractures show up on x-rays if they were displaced, required surgery, or produced other joint damage with other structures involved. No, fractures do not always show up on x-rays, if the fracture was non-displaced and other structures were not involved.
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Start healing today! Contact Moore Foot and Ankle Specialists today to review your surgical and maintenance treatment options for a foot fracture.
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