Ankle Fractures
By Dr. Jeffrey Frederick
November 21, 2012
Category: Foot Health Care


All it might take is stepping off the curb, or falling down the stairs, but fractured ankles are all too common especially in the winter months in snowy states like Michigan. The most common type of ankle fracture occurs when the foot is fixed in a supinated or arched position, and the leg turns externally.  This type of injury causes a somewhat predictable pattern of fracture in the ankle, which if bad enough includes a break in the tibia, fibula as well as disruption of multiple ligaments.  

When this injury occurs, the bones can become displaced, or separated.  The further the distance between the fractured bones, the slower it will heal.  For this reason, it becomes especially important for a doctor to see the ankle right away.  After trauma like an ankle fracture, blood vessels or nerves may become injured from the bone fragments, which if not dealt with soon enough could lead to serious problems. Also the ankle will quickly produce a lot of swelling which can make putting the bones in place very difficult.  One last concern are fracture blisters, which can prevent a surgeon from operating on a fracture ankle until the swelling reduces and skin closure can be performed appropriately.

After being seen in the Emergency Department, a podiatrist or other doctor usually attempts to “close reduce” the ankle fracture.  The patient will receive pain medication and a sedative before the procedure, which does not require a trip to the operating room.   In order to realign the bones, the fracture must be exaggerated, distracted, reversed, then held in place with a splint or cast.  If the ankle is very swollen, the best way to immobilize it is a posterior splint, or a L-shaped cast on the back of the leg and ankle which his held in place with ACE bandages.

Occasionally ankle fractures require surgery if the bones are not in correct position to heal properly.  Surgery may include use of plates or screws, which are permanently left in place to help the fracture heal and provide strength to the bone.  Once the bone heals around 6-8 weeks, the patient is transitioned from a walking cast and physical therapy to regain strength and motion. To avoid any ankle trouble, be careful this winter! Most importantly, never go down stairs in the dark, and walk slowly when it may be icy.  

Thank you for visiting our website!  Please continue to learn more about your foot care needs by reading other informative articles and by visiting our helpful links.  NorthPointe Foot & Ankle is located in Berkley, MI and has been serving people around the Southfield, Berkley, Ferndale, and Royal Oak area for over 30 years.  Request an appointment via our website or call our office at (248) 545-0100.

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