What is an ankle fracture?
The ankle joint is formed by three bones: the tibia, fibula and talus. The ends of the tibia and fibula form the medial (inner) and lateral (outer) malleolus. These are the bony protrusions normally seen on the inside and outside of the ankle. Ankle injuries can result in a torn ligament (ankle sprain) or a broken bone (ankle fracture). Ankle fractures typically occur at the medial and lateral malleolus.
What causes an ankle fracture?
Ankle fractures are typically the result of a twisting injury to the foot and ankle. This can occur from a simple misstep while walking, or from a high energy mechanism such as a fall from height or accident.
What are the symptoms of an ankle fracture?
The symptoms of an ankle fracture are immediate pain, swelling and often the inability to put weight on the ankle. This is most often accompanied by extensive bruising. Severe injuries can result in visible deformity (angulation) of the ankle, and even bones protruding through the skin.
How is an ankle fracture diagnosed?
Ankle fractures are diagnosed with medical history, thorough physical examination and X-rays to assess for the presence of a fracture and to determine the fracture characteristics (appearance). Computed tomography (CT) scans may also be obtained. Stress X-rays may be taken where pressure is applied to the ankle with a manual force, gravity, or weight bearing to determine the stability of the fracture. This can be critical for determining the treatment of some ankle fractures.
How is an ankle fracture treated?
Stable ankle fractures are treated nonsurgically. They may require a plaster splint, fiberglass cast, or a walking boot, depending on the fracture type and stability. Patients should ice and elevate the ankle routinely to minimize pain and swelling.
Unstable ankle fractures are typically treated with surgery to realign and stabilize the bone using plates and screws. This is followed by avoiding weight on the ankle by using crutches for a short period of time, followed by weight bearing and physical therapy.