Generally speaking, a fracture refers to either a complete or a partial break in a bone. Fractures can vary wildly in both severity and appearance. They can range from less troublesome avulsion fractures to absolute shatterings.
Ankle fractures are quite common. Usually, patients sustain an ankle fracture from rolling the ankle too far inward or outward. Many people will typically confuse an ankle fracture for an ankle sprain, but of course, they are not the same. Naturally, both are different enough to require different kinds of treatment; so, an early and accurate diagnosis is paramount. That being said, it is not unheard of for these two types of injuries to occur at the same time.
Also noteworthy, the more broken bones there are, the more unstable the affected body part becomes. Sometimes, a broken bone also means damaged ligaments. Ligaments are responsible for holding the ankle bones and joints in position.
Ankle fractures affect people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. Interestingly, the number of broken ankles has gone up over the past three to four decades. This is primarily due to the fact that the baby boomer generation is historically one of the most active “older” generations in existence.
Three bones comprise the ankle: the tibia (shinbone), the fibula (smaller bone in the lower leg), and the talus (bone between the heel, tibia, and fibula). More specifically, the tibula and fibula help make up specific parts of the ankle. These include:
It is important to understand the anatomy of the ankle in order to understand how doctors classify ankle fractures. For instance, if a fracture occurs at the end of the fibula, then doctors call it a lateral malleolus fracture. Similarly, if both the fibula and tibia break, then doctors refer to the injury as a bimalleolar fracture.
Ankle fractures involve the following two joints:
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Because ankle sprains and fractures are so similar, it is important to have a physician check the injury as soon as possible. Here is a list of some common ankle fractures symptoms :
These are the most basic symptoms of this type of injury. Other complications such as infection also exist, but have not been included here for brevity and contextual relevance.
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Before anything, our doctors will need to determine if you have a sprain or an ankle fracture. This will most likely be done by one of our newer doctors: a podiatrist or sports medicine specialist
Our doctor will examine your injury and ask questions relevant to the nature of your injury. For added confirmation, usually, an imaging test is ordered such as an x-ray, CT Scan, or MRI. Once our doctor has confirmed the nature of your injury, the treatment process may begin.
Treatment, of course, will always depend on the nature and severity of your case. Usually, your doctor will initially recommend the RICE method:
Additional treatments include immobilization and prescription medication. Immobilization is ideal for certain fractures because it helps protect and restrict the ankle and foot via a cast or splint. This is basically just a way to help reinforce the “R” in RICE. Prescription meds are best for relieving pain. And, anti-inflammatories are great for controlling the swelling.
If your bones are no longer properly aligned, your doctor may realign them before placing the affected foot in a splint or cast. In the event that the bones cannot be realigned properly, then the patient will need to have surgery. This also may be necessary if the bone has pierced the skin. If the bone breaks through like this, this is known as a compound fracture, and it is much more serious than a normal one. The type of surgery depends on the nature of your fracture, so for the sake of brevity, we will look at only one example.
Remember, this refers to a fracture at the back of the tibia at the level of the ankle joint.
Usually, in these instances, the fibula is also broken. The reason for this is because the fibula connects via ligaments to the posterior malleolus. In the absolute worst cases, this may be accompanied by a fracture of the medial malleolus.
Depending on how large the broken section of bone is, the back of the ankle may become unstable. If the piece is on the larger side (bigger than 25% of the ankle) and is out of place by more than a few millimeters, the cartilage will not heal properly and the surface of the joint will become rough. This unevenness leads to even more pressure and instability, which in turn causes cartilage damage and arthritis.
There are plenty of approaches for how to treat this surgically, but the most common involves having screws operatively inserted from the front to the back of the ankle. In some instances, your doctor may also resort to plates and screws inserted along the anterior side of the shin bone.
Do you think you have a fracture or sprained your ankle? Firstly, contact emergency medical services and then schedule a follow up with our doctors at (855) 586-2615. Our newest podiatrist and sports medicine specialist will be able to ensure that your recovery is an efficient and speedy one. Don’t hesitate, contact us today!
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