Ankle Fractures

An ankle fracture, commonly known as a broken ankle, involves any type of break or crack in the tibia, fibula, or talus. Common causes of an ankle fracture may include a sports injury, a motor vehicle accident or a fall. An ankle fracture can include injury to one or more of the bones that make up the ankle joint. If more than one bone is broken, the fracture is more severe and more complicated to treat. Stable fractures, those in which the bones are not out of alignment, usually heal on their own once casted, while more complicated fractures may require surgery to reposition the misaligned bones so that they heal properly. Surgery most often necessitates the use of surgical hardware.

Symptoms

Individuals with an ankle fracture may experience difficulty walking or putting weight on the affected ankle. Additional symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Physical deformity

Because the ankle and foot may become very swollen, it may be difficult for some people with a broken ankle to put shoes on.

Diagnosis

An ankle fracture is diagnosed through a physical examination and diagnostic imaging tests that may include:

  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan

Treatment

Treatment for an ankle fracture varies depending on the type and severity of the individual fracture. In some cases, a cast or brace will be used while the ankle heals. In most  cases, surgery may be necessary to reposition the broken bone with hardware.

Although the methods used to treat ankle fractures vary, rehabilitation is always necessary after the initial treatment to restore full movement and mobility to the ankle and help the patient return to all usual activities. After the ankle bone has healed from the initial treatment for the fracture and patient can bear weight on the joint, a physical therapy regimen is implemented to strengthen muscles and increase mobility. Without proper rehabilitation, complications such as chronic pain, inflammation and weakness may cause difficulty walking and performing physical activities.

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