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Fractured Ankle

Orange County Ankle Specialists

Ankle fractures occur when one or more bones of the ankle joint are either partially or completely broken. Fractures can range in severity from less serious avulsion injuries, where small bone fragments pull apart from the bone, to severe breaks or shattering. A fractured ankle may also involve injuries to ligaments that stabilize the ankle and keep it in position.

The ankle is comprised of three bones – the tibia, fibula, and talus. The tibia (shin bone) and fibula (smaller bone on the outside of the leg), are located above the ankle joint, and the talus is located below the joint. The ends of the tibia and fibula also form the bony prominences of the ankle known as the malleoli (medial malleolus and lateral malleolus), in which the talus bone sits.

Fractures of the tibia, fibula, or malleoli are common injuries, especially after trauma resulting from accidents, falls, and rolling or twisting of the ankle. Fractures, such as stress fractures, can also be caused by repetitive forces and overuse associated with running, jumping, and directional changes.

The following symptoms can accompany a fractured ankle:

  • Pain and swelling at the fracture site, which may extend to the foot or knee
  • Bruising which develops shortly after injury
  • Difficulty or inability to bear weight or walk
  • Deformities of bones around the ankle, with severe fractures

Diagnosing Ankle Fractures

Because symptoms of a fractured ankle mirror those associated with sprains, an early and accurate diagnosis is essential to identifying whether any fractures have occurred, as well as treatment approaches that may be used to reduce pain, stabilize the bones and joint, promote healing, and restore function.

Whether at an emergency room or with an ankle specialist, a doctor will perform a physical examination to evaluate the injury. Imaging tests, including X-rays and MRIs, may also be ordered to determine the severity of a fracture, whether there is displacement between broken bones, and whether there are any injuries to important ligaments.

Treating a Fractured Ankle

Treatment of ankle fractures is directed by the location and severity at which bones of the ankle are fractured. Some fractures, including less severe injuries, may be treated non-surgically using:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory and pain medications
  • Casts, splints, or bracing to immobilize and protect the fracture while it heals
  • Reduction in weight-bearing activity
  • Physical therapy to restore range of motion

In some cases, ankle fractures may require surgery, especially if they are severe, displaced, or bones of the ankle need to be realigned and stabilized. The surgical approach used to repair the fracture and any other soft tissue injuries will be personalized to every patient, but the main goal is to restore the ankle joint to its normal shape, and reduce chances of ankle arthritis in the future.

Many ankle fracture surgeries involve open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF), where fractured bones are set through incisions made on the outer ankle if the fibula is fractured (lateral incision) or the inner ankle if the tibia is broken (medial incision). Repositioned bones are then held in place using medical grade metal screws and / or plates. Restricted activity and a cast or boot will be used to protect the ankle until the fracture fully heals, which typically takes 2 to 3 months. Physical therapy can also help improve recovery and allow patients to regain ankle function and improve range of motion.

Find an Orange County Ankle Surgeon Today

Hoag Orthopedic Institute has earned national recognition from U.S. News & World Report and other health care organizations as one of the best Orthopedic Hospitals in the country. With surgeons among the top in their field and nurses, technicians, and physical therapists certified and / or specialized in orthopedic care, our team works together to provide the comprehensive care patients need to expertly diagnose, treat, and recover from ankle fractures.

To learn more about our services, call (855) 999-4641 or find an ankle surgeon using our online physician directory.

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