Ankle Fracture Treatment & Surgery

The best treatment for your ankle fracture is determined by a number of factors, including your age, present health, health history, and the severity of the fracture. Ankle fracture, which is a partial or complete break in the ankle joint, can be a simple fracture that allows you to still put weight on the joint or a severe one that requires surgery.

Ankle Fracture Diagnosis

An ankle fracture can cause pain that makes walking painful and do damage to surrounding ligaments and tendons. If you have any reason to believe that your ankle is broken, it is important to seek medical help so the condition does not worsen. To best diagnose your condition, your doctor will take you through a series of questions regarding your health and activity level, as well as perform a physical exam. Then, to best determine the extent of the breakage, one or more of these procedures will be performed:

  • X-Ray (Radiograph) – This is the most common way to diagnose a broken ankle. It is performed by reflecting radioactive waves off the ankle bone. These are then turned into an image that can show the doctor where the fracture occurred and the severity of the condition.
  • Computed Tomography Scan (CT or CAT scan) – A CAT scan uses computer technology to further evaluate the injured area. This imaging test can be used to determine the extent of the injury. 
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) –MRIs do not use radiation and can help determine any damage done to surrounding ligaments. It is performed by putting the ankle in a magnetic field where radio waves are aimed at your ankle and foot, which causes them to vibrate. A computer then takes these vibrations and translates them into a high-definition image.

Nonsurgical Treatment for Ankle Fractures

The extent of treatment of an ankle fracture is determined by the severity of the breakage. If the ankle is still stable, it can usually be treated without surgical intervention. The most common way to do this is to put a splint around the ankle, or fit you with a fracture brace for approximately two weeks or until the swelling goes down. Afterwards, the doctor will determine  the duration and type of immobilization necessary, as well as if the fracture is stable enough to allow you to walk on it.

Surgery for Ankle Fractures

In some cases, when the joint comes out of alignment, an ankle fracture necessitates surgery. The aim of most ankle fracture surgeries is to realign the bone so it grows back properly and does not cause further damage. The majority of ankle fractures are treated using

  • Plate and Screws – If the ankle has come out of alignment during the fracture, it will need to be held in the correct position using plates and screws. These are applied surgically to help keep the bones in the right place as they heal.

To learn more about fractures, visit the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).


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