What Is an Ankle Fracture?
A fracture is a partial or complete break in a bone. Fractures in the ankle can range from the less serious avulsion injuries (small pieces of bone that have been pulled off) to severe shattering-type breaks of the tibia, fibula or both.
Ankle fractures are common injuries most often caused by the ankle rolling inward or outward. Many people mistake an ankle fracture for an ankle sprain, but they are quite different and therefore require an accurate and early diagnosis. They sometimes occur simultaneously.
An ankle fracture is accompanied by one or all of these 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 is possible to walk with less severe breaks, so never rely on walking as a test of whether or not 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—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.
When Is Surgery Needed?
For some ankle fractures, surgery is 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.
There are 26 bones in the foot. These bones support our weight and allow us to walk and run. Certain activities or injuries can cause a fracture, or break, in one or more of these bones. Pain, swelling, redness and even bruising are signs of a possible fracture. Fractures of the foot can be diagnosed by x-rays or other studies. A foot and ankle surgeon can determine the best treatment course. Rest, icing and immobilization are often the treatments; however, surgery is sometimes necessary to repair the fracture.