Recently roll your ankle playing sports or experienced a trip/fall with sudden & constant symptoms of pain and swelling?
Many people mistake an ankle fracture for an ankle sprain (Figures 1 and 2), while they do sometimes occur simultaneously, they differ and require an accurate/early diagnosis. The ankle joint consists of three bones (Fig 3) (the tibia, fibula, and talus) and the many ligaments that hold the ankle bones/joint in place. Fractures in the ankle can range from less severe avulsion injuries to more severe shattering-type breaks which include damaged ligaments. Symptoms include pain at the fracture site, deformity of the joint, significant swelling, blister formation, bruising, inability to walk, and in severe cases protrusion of the bone through the skin.
After an ankle injury, it is key to have your ankle evaluated by a podiatric surgeon for proper diagnosis/treatment with X-rays and other imaging studies if needed. Treatment for ankle fractures varies depending on the fracture pattern and all initially require the RICE protocol: Rest (immobilizing the ankle joint), Ice (application of ice pack to the injured area), Compression (Elastic wrap to keep swelling down), and Elevation (the ankle joint placed above the level of the heart). Non-surgical treatment is reserved for an injury of a relatively stable ankle with broken bones that are not out of place. Podiatric surgeons or emergency room physicians will immobilize the ankle joint with a short leg cast or a removable boot.
Surgical treatment by a podiatric surgeon is undergone for more severe ankle fractures with an unstable, mal-aligned ankle. Surgical intervention consists of plates, screws, and in some cases rods inside the bones to allow the bone fragments to become re-aligned and heal with proper apposition while in a short leg cast/splint (Figure 4). Although most people return to their normal daily activities within 3-4 months, it may take up to one year to return to sports and competitive-level activities.
If you've recently suffered an ankle fracture or are experiencing ankle pain call to schedule an appointment with our board-certified podiatrists/foot and ankle specialists at 843-449-3668 or simply click here.