Dr. Christine Seaworth, a fellowship-trained foot and ankle surgeon in Knoxville, Tennessee, discusses the common causes of ankle fractures and treatment options to help with the pain in this patient education article.
An ankle fracture occurs when one or more bones are broken around the ankle. A broken bone and a fracture mean the same thing, the bone has been split and may or may not have moved out of place. A compound fracture means the bone has come through the skin and exposed to the outside world, greatly increasing chances of infection after injury.
Common ways patients injure themselves include twisting their ankle in a hole in the ground, a fall downhill or stairs, car or ATV accident, playing sports, and fall from a height.
Sometimes it can be difficult to know if it is just an ankle sprain or a broken bone. Common symptoms of both include difficulty walking, swelling, tenderness to touch, bruising, and pain. It is important if you have had an injury to have an X-ray by your orthopedic surgeon or in the walk-in clinic. If it is the weekend or after-hours, an urgent care clinic or emergency room can also provide this service.
Once you have been diagnosed with an ankle fracture your treatment can vary greatly. Sometimes only a small fleck of bone has broken off (avulsion fracture) and this will be treated similar to an ankle sprain. Hopefully, you will have made a significant recovery in six weeks. If you have broken your ankle in several places and even dislocated it at the same time, you may require more than one surgery to fix it and you may take up to two years to heal completely.
Common techniques of fixing ankle fractures include inserting stainless steel or titanium hardware into the bones to hold the fracture correctly aligned while it heals. If surgery is required you will likely be off your ankle for around six weeks. Once the bones are completely healed the hardware is no longer needed and the bone is strong enough to support itself. Occasionally the hardware will be removed if it is painful or prominent because the ankle joint does not have much padding around it which makes it more likely for the hardware to rub on your shoes.
After surgery, you should expect to attend physical therapy to help regain as much motion and strength back as possible. The severity of the initial injury usually determines how well people do long term. Ankle fractures can commonly lead to ankle arthritis so the correct initial diagnosis and treatment are very important in increasing odds of a good long-term outcome.
University Orthoped Surgeons offers personalized foot and ankle expertise
If you're concerned that you may have an ankle fracture and are ready to discuss treatment options with our specialty-trained foot and ankle surgeon, Dr. Christine Seaworth visit us at our UT Medical Center, West Knoxville, or Sevierville locations. You can request an appointment online or call (865) 546-2663 for our UT Medical Center and Sevierville offices, (865) 218-9300 for our West Knoxville office. Telemedicine appointments are also available by request.