A fracture ankle occurs when one or more of the bones that comprise the ankle are broken. The implications of the injury vary, with a single break preventing you from walking to multiple fractures, which can displace the ankle and leave it completely immobilized for several months.
Ligaments can also incur damage during the injury, which further weakens the stability of the joint and increases the healing time for a fractured ankle. A number of incidents can result in this injury, including twisting and/or rolling the ankle, falling, and experiencing a strong impact or trauma. Common red flag symptoms include bruising, swelling, severe pain, deformity, and the inability to put weight on the foot.
The ankle joint is made up of multiple ligaments and three bones: the tibia (shin bone), fibula, and talus (a small bone sitting between the heel, tibia, and fibula). The surrounding ligaments hold the bones in place and keep the joints in tact. Two types of joint can be involved in ankle fractures. The ankle joint is classified as the point at which the tibia, fibula, and talus meet, while the Syndesmosis joint contains ligaments that connect the tibia and fibula.
Types of Fractures
Dr. Aslmand will determine the type of fracture according to which area of bone is broken. The most common fractures are a lateral malleolus and a bimalleolar fracture. A lateral malleolus fracture occurs at the end of the fibula, whereas a bimalleolar involves a break in both the tibia and the fibula. Physical examination, stress tests, and imaging scans allow the doctor to locate the injury and decide on a treatment plan.
Surgical and Non-surgical Treatment
If the fracture is very low and/or the bones are not out of place, the injury can be treated without a surgical procedure. Many fractures can be treated with a removable ankle brace or half-leg cast. If the ankle is unstable or out of place, however, your doctor may determine that surgery is necessary. Depending on the type and location of the fracture, Dr. Aslmand may use screws, plates, or wiring techniques to reposition the affected parts and create a healthy starting point for recovery.
Fractured Ankle Healing Time
Because of the wide range of potential injuries, the prognosis and recovery time are also varied. The healing time will depend on the stability of the joint and bones, as well as the medical intervention used. As a general rule, broken bones take at least six weeks to heal, but the ligaments and tendons may require more time.
Whether you undergo surgery or not, the affected area needs time to heal and recover, meaning you must avoid putting weight on the leg for at least six weeks. Follow-up x-rays allow the treatment team to monitor the healing process and ensure that the bones heal with proper alignment and positioning.
Physical therapy exercises can begin once the ankle is able to be moved, and weightbearing will depend entirely on how rehabilitation progresses. Depending on the injury, patients may also be advised to wear a supportive brace or splint for several months after beginning recovery, particularly when engaging in physical activities that put stress on the ankle.