Treating Broken Bones in the Ankle

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

The ankle joint consists of several bones functioning together. If just one of the bones in the ankle is broken, impaired mobility and pain can occur. It is crucial to seek treatment right away to increase the likelihood of full healing. Immediate medical care will help the injured person retain functionality more quickly.


Categorization of an ankle break (fracture) is imperative when determining the appropriate medical care. Treatment relies on a thorough history of the injury, a focused physical examination by your doctor, and xrays to fully evaluate the injury. This will help your orthopedic surgeon determine the best treatment option for you.


What Can Cause an Ankle Fracture?


The ankle bones are very strong, but a traumatic injury can break even very strong bones. Osteoporosis (or thinning of the bones due to underlying disease or simple old age) can also make the possibility of fracture more likely.  Trauma often includes:


  • Rolling or twisting the ankle
  • Extending or flexing the joint too much
  • Blunt force


Symptoms of Ankle Fracture


It is important to see a doctor if you are having any of the following issues after an ankle injury:


  • Bruising
  • Severe pain with movement
  • Redness or tenderness
  • Throbbing pain
  • A malformation in the bone
  • Trouble bearing weight
  • Trouble walking


Diagnosing Ankle Fractures


You should see an orthopedic specialist to diagnose an ankle break.  This specialist will decide on the severity of the ankle trauma and come up with a treatment plan.  Imaging tests will need to be done in order for the doctor to treat you to the best of their ability.


Ankle Fracture Treatments


Most of the time, if the break is small and the bones haven’t moved far apart, non-surgical therapy can heal an ankle fracture.  If this is the case, your doctor will protect the broken bone during the healing process. Crutches, splints, removable braces, and casts are some forms of protection that are typically used with broken bones. It usually takes around 6 weeks for a broken bone to heal. Nonsurgical treatment also consists of RICE therapy that can decrease pain and swelling:


  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation


Surgery for Ankle Fractures


Certain ankle fractures require surgery. These types of fractures are usually big cracks where the bones have moved away from their normal position. Often, surgery will be postponed until the swelling goes down to foster better healing. Some possible surgeries performed for ankle fractures are:


Ankle Fracture Fixation Surgery


Orthopedic surgeons use surgical hardware like pins, plates, and screws to hold the bones in place. Sometimes, ligament repairs are required if the ankle is still unstable even after the bones have been stabilized and fixated. 


Non-Union Ankle Fracture Surgery


A non-union is a fracture that was not healed properly or has been diagnosed long after the initial break. Non-union repair is a type of surgery to clear away any infection, to correctly stabilize the fracture, or to stimulate growth in the bone using bone graft or other specialized orthopedic materials.


Ankle Fracture Surgery Recovery


Recovery from an ankle break can take from a few weeks to many months, depending on the severity of the injury.  Rehabilitation and physical therapy are often required to regain your strength,  mobility, and function after surgery. Subsequently, a splint or cast must be worn, and pain will be treated with medications. Crutches or a knee scooter will likely be necessary. Full recovery is usually 3 months after the injury, and your orthopedic surgeon will monitor the healing process carefully. 

 Dr. Cuyler Dear is an ABOS Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon who treats ankle fractures and also performs arthroscopic surgery, sports medicine, and joint replacement surgery.  Dr. Dear is ready to help you on your road to recovery. Contact us here or call (806) 502-6570 for more information.