Ankle Fractures

What is an Ankle Fracture?

An ankle fracture is a partial or complete break of the tibia, fibula, or both. Ankle fractures range from less serious avulsion injuries (small parts of the bone break off) to severe shattering of the bone. Ankle fractures share several symptoms of ankle sprains, and therefore early diagnosis is crucial to the proper treatment of a fracture. 

Causes

A common cause of ankle fractures is the inward or outward rolling of the ankle joint. Because this is also the primary cause of the less serious ankle sprain, patients may self diagnose. It is also common to see both an ankle fracture and an ankle sprain to occur simultaneously.  

Symptoms

The following are common symptoms associated ankle fractures:

  • Pain - at the location of the fracture. 

  • Swelling - at the sight of the injury as well as along the length of the leg.

  • Blisters - can appear over the fracture site.

  • Inability to walk - pain when bearing weight on the limb. This can range from slight discomfort to extreme pain depending on the severity of the injury.

  • Change in appearance - the ankle will appear different, usually larger than the uninjured ankle. 

  • Bone protruding through the skin - this is a sign that immediate medical attention is needed. Without immediate medical attention fractures of this nature can lead to severe infection and a long recovery period. 

Treatments

Treatments for ankle fractures vary greatly depending on the severity of the injury. Several conservative treatment measures are:

  • R.I.C.E. Protocol - Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. 
    Rest - Stay off of the injured ankle, further walking can make the injury worse.
    Ice - Cold packs applied to the injury can reduce swelling and inflammation. 20 minutes on followed by at least 40 minutes off is a common recommendation. 
    Compression - Wrapping the injury with a cloth or elastic bandage can help control swelling. 
    Elevation - Elevating the ankle to at least the level of the heart is recommended to reduce swelling. 

  • Immobilization - restricting and protecting the ankle and foot in a cast, splint, or boot is common.

  • Prescription Medications - a podiatrist may prescribe pain medication, anti-inflammatory medication, or both. 

  • Surgery - in certain circumstances surgery may be necessary depending on the nature and severity of the fracture.

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