Complications After Ankle Fracture
Many patients will experience stiffness and swelling in the injured ankle for many months, even after the fracture has healed.
Rehabilitation will help improve the motion in your ankle and prevent stiffness. The swelling can be relieved by elevating your leg.
Other general complications include malunion, where the bones do not heal properly, or nonunion, where the bones do not heal at all.
Some complications are specific to surgery. These include:
- Damage to blood vessels, tendons, and nerves
- Problems with the plates or screws used to repair your ankle
People who smoke, have diabetes, or are elderly are at a higher risk for complications after surgery.
How Is A Broken Ankle Treated
Treatment is based on the alignment of the bones and the stability of the ankle joint. The goal is to have the bones heal as closely to perfect as possible so as to prevent any residual instability or malalignment of the bone. A malalignment of as little as two millimeters in the ankle joint can lead to arthritis. It is much easier to fix a fracture than to treat arthritis in the future. Certain mild ankle breaks can be treated nonsurgically with a splint, short leg cast, or other protective device such as a walking boot Some patients may be able to walk immediately while wearing a support while others may have to use crutches to limit weightbearing.
For more serious fractures in which bones or bone fragments are misaligned, surgical intervention is necessary to prevent improper healing that would impede proper movement in the ankle and possibly lead to other complications.
X-ray showing front view of surgical plates and screws to treat a trimalleolar fracture
X-ray showing side view of the same
X-ray showing front view of fixation of the fibula and posterior malleolus with restoration of the joint congruity
X-ray showing side view of the same
Determining The Grade Of A Sprain
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How Do Ankle Fractures Happen
Most people break their ankles after taking a direct hit on their ankle. They might fall hard, or be struck by something that caused their ankle to break. Here are some ways that an ankle fracture can happen:
- Being in a motor vehicle accident.
- Playing sports, particularly sports where you are likely to be hit on your ankle or you make sudden moves that twist your ankle.
- Falling from a significant height.
- Tripping and falling.
- Taking a misstep and rolling” your ankle.
How Do You Fix A Rolled Ankle
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Whats The Difference Between An Ankle Sprain And Ankle Fracture
Your ankle is a complex joint comprised of ligaments, tendons, and three main bones: your talus, your fibula, and your tibia. These elements work together to help you move, and even a slight displacement in the joint can result in pressure or pain.
Both ankle sprains and fractures result from similar activities, such as tripping, falling, or twisting, and occur when the ankle is stressed at an angle. The difference is that sprains result when there is damage to the ligament, whereas ankle fractures require a break in the bone.
How Is An Ankle Fracture Treated
Depending on the severity of your ankle fracture, your treatment may be nonsurgical or surgical.
For a simple break in one bone that is stable, your doctor may recommend using a walking boot or cast for about six weeks to protect the fracture as it heals. Depending on which bone is brokenand where the break is on the boneyou may be able to put some weight on the affected leg right away or you may need to use crutches for a few weeks.
Additional recommendations for mild fractures, especially in the first few days following injury, include:
- Resting the ankle
- Elevating the ankle
- Icing the area every one to two hours for 15 minutes at a time
Your doctor will have you come in regularly to have X-rays to check that the fracture fragments havent misaligned as they heal. Additionally, medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen may help with pain and inflammation.
For more serious fractures, including cases where the bones, and in particular the joints, are misaligned from the break, surgery may be necessary.
In many cases, your surgeon will reposition any bone fragments into their normal alignment and hold them together with special screws and metal plates to keep the fragments together while you heal. Sometimes, bone grafting may be done so that new bone has a place to grow.
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Did I Sprain Or Break My Ankle
Determining between a sprain and a fracture without the input of an NYC foot doctor can be difficult. However, here are some tips you can use to discover it for yourself:
- Did you hear a noise when the injury occurred? If so, it is more likely a break than a sprain.
- Is your ankle deformed? If your ankle is directed at an odd angle, it is likely a broken ankle. Sprains tend to keep the ankle straight.
- If you feel numbness in addition to the pain, it is more likely a fractured ankle.
- If the pain is substantially worsening over time, it is more likely a break.
Oftentimes, the only way to know for sure what injury you have is to let a qualified podiatrist examine and x-ray the ankle to determine the cause of the pain. Regardless of what you believe it might be at home, if the pain caused by this injury is substantial, or you are unable to live your life as you normally would, give our NYC foot and ankle clinic a call today to schedule an appointment.
Treatment For A Sprained Ankle
Treatment for a sprained ankle aims to:
- reduce pain and swelling
- restore your full range of motion
- return your ankle to full strength
For the first few days, you can follow the RICE method to reduce swelling:
- Rest. Stay off your feet as much as possible.
- Ice. Ice your foot for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours.
- Compression. Wear an elastic bandage that provides compression around the injured area.
- Elevation. Elevate your foot above the level of your heart when youre resting.
You can also take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen to help manage pain.
Once the swelling passes, your doctor may recommend that you visit a physical therapist. A physical therapist can put together a customized plan of stretches and exercises to help restore the function of your ankle.
Surgery is rarely needed to treat ankle sprains.
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Contact Us If You Have Sustained Any Type Of Ankle Injury
If you think you have sprained, twisted, or broken your ankle, it is crucial to ensure that it is properly looked at by a professional foot doctor. We have two locations in Midtown and Downtown NYC that are available to help you get back on your feet as quickly as possible.
To learn more about how we have been effectively treating ankle fractures and sprains for decades at our NYC foot clinic, call us at 917-398-3668 or fill in our online contact form below.
Nondisplaced Vs Displaced Ankle Fractures
Within each of the above types, the fracture will be either:
- Nondisplaced Bones are broken but still in correct position and alignment.
- Displaced Fractured portions of bone are separated or misaligned. The treatment will be based on fracture alignment and stability of the ankle.
There are some additional, unique types of fractures.
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What To Do If You Break Your Ankle
If you think you have a broken ankle, visit a doctor as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the National Health Service says that you can do several other things to take care of yourself, including:
- Keep weight off your foot. Elevate your ankle and prop it up on cushions.
- Apply ice. This will minimize pain and swelling.
- Apply pressure. If youre bleeding, wrap the wound with a clean dressing.
If an auto collision or injury caused your broken ankle, or if the bone is sticking out of the skin, get medical help immediately.
Every injury is different. According to the NHS, the best treatment depends on the type and seriousness of your ankle break.
How To Know If Your Ankle Is Broken
If you sustain an injury to your ankle and wonder whether it is broken or not, you should remain calm and assess your symptoms. A broken ankle is quite painful, especially when you try to move it or put weight on it. The ankle is usually swollen from blood or fluid accumulating at the site of injury and it may be discolored or bruised. Less common symptoms of a broken ankle can be feeling a numb or tingling sensation and/or what is called crepitus or a feeling of bone grinding on bone when the ankle is manipulated. Beyond a bone sticking out of the flesh, the only way to know for sure if you have a broken ankle is to obtain an X-ray or bone scan. If the ankle is broken, these diagnostic tests will show that something is out of place. A CT scan or MRI may be ordered to determine the severity of the break. It is vital to see a podiatrist if you have injured your ankle as this professional can order the appropriate test and proceed to treat the fracture or whatever condition might be identified.
Broken ankles need immediate treatment. If you are seeking treatment, contact Donald Harrison, DPM from Foot and Ankle Institute of Maryland. Our doctor can provide the care you need to keep you pain-free and on your feet.
Broken Ankles A broken ankle is experienced when a person fractures their tibia or fibula in the lower leg and ankle area. Both of these bones are attached at the bottom of the leg and combine to form what we know to be our ankle.
Symptoms of a Fractured Ankle
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How Can I Tell The Difference
To help figure out what the injury might be, ask yourself a few questions:
- Was there a noise when it happened? A sprain may occur silently, or in severe cases there may be a popping sound. With a fracture, you might hear a crack.
- Is your ankle misshapen? While swelling is a symptom of both injuries, if your ankle looks clearly âoff,â itâs most likely because a bone is broken.
- Does your ankle feel numb? With a sprain, you feel pain. But if you have numbness or tingling, your ankle is most likely broken.
- Where is the pain? If your ankle hurts or is tender to the touch directly over your ankle bone, you probably have a fracture. If the pain is in the soft part of your ankle, itâs more likely a sprain.
If youâre still not sure, see your doctor. They can examine your ankle and give you a number of tests to figure out which injury you have.
What Are The Complications With Ankle Fracture Surgery
Complications can include:
- Acute compartment syndrome : In this syndrome, pressure building in your muscles keeps your blood from getting to your muscles and tissues. ACS can cause permanent muscle and nerve damage.
- Malunion: This is when your broken bones don’t line up so they can heal correctly.
- Bone infection : This happens if you have an open fracture. An open fracture is where your bone breaks through your skin, creating the risk of bacterial infection.
- Nerve or blood vessel damage: An ankle fracture can damage nerves and blood vessels.
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Bimalleolar Fractureand Bimalleolar Equivalent Fracture
A bimalleolar fracture occurs when both the medial malleolus and lateral malleolus are broken. Since there are injuries to both sides of the ankle, bimalleolar fractures are frequently unstable, and the ankle is often dislocated.
A stable bimalleolar fracture may be treated with cast immobilization for several weeks. During this time, you cannot put weight on your ankle. While you are in the cast, your doctor will take X-rays to make sure that the bones do not slip out of place.
Because there are injuries to both sides of the ankle, most bimalleolar fractures need surgical repair. This is usually done with a plate and screws.
A bimalleolar fracture occurs when both the medial malleolus and lateral malleolus are broken.
Surgical repair of bimalleolar fracture with screws and plate and screws .
A bimalleolar equivalent fracture means that the ligaments on the inside part of the ankle are injured, and that only one bone has broken. The torn ligaments can cause the lower bone to shift and the ankle joint to go partially out of place or dislocate. Treatment involves putting the joint back in place and repairing the broken bone.
A bimalleolar equivalent fracture with torn ligaments on the medial side and a broken lateral malleolus.
How To Tell If Your Ankle Is Broken
Michael Menna, DO, is board-certified in emergency medicine. He is an attending emergency medicine physician at White Plains Hospital in White Plains, New York and also works at an urgent care center and a telemedicine company that provides care to patients across the country.
Angela Underwood’s extensive local, state, and federal healthcare and environmental news coverage includes 911 first-responder compensation policy to the Ciba-Geigy water contamination case in Toms River, NJ. Her additional health-related coverage includes death and dying, skin care, and autism spectrum disorder.
There are two types of clues as to whether a bone is broken or not. They’re called signs and symptoms. Symptoms are things only the patient can feel while signs are things anyone can see or touch. Basically, to stick with the sign terminology, these are things you can read.
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Is My Ankle Broken Or Sprained
If your ankle is in pain, swollen, and difficult to put weight on, you may have an ankle sprain or break. But which one? While it may seem trivial to determine which one, as both will likely keep you off your feet for a few weeks or months, it is still essential to find out which one you have so that the proper treatment can be administered. They may share some very similar symptoms, but there are some differences that you can use to determine what your injury is.
What is a Fracture?
An ankle fracture occurs when at least one of the three bones in your ankle – the tibia, fibula, or talus – are damaged or broken. Depending on the severity of your ankle break, your symptoms may vary. If your fracture is merely a small chip off of one of the bones, you may not even notice any difference! Alternatively, if you have broken multiple bones in your ankle, you may be in absolute agony and require immediate medical attention.
What is a Sprain?
While a broken ankle is characterized by damage to the bones, a sprained ankle is characterized by damage to the ankle ligaments. Your ankle ligaments are tough bands of muscle and tissue that hold your joints stable but allow them to move. If one of these ligaments are injured, it may be considered a mildly twisted ankle. However, if multiple ligaments are damaged or even torn, your sprain could be severe and require surgery.
While You’re Waiting To See A Doctor
If you think youve broken your ankle, there are some things you can do while youre waiting to see a doctor.
- raise your ankle if possible
- gently hold an ice pack wrapped in a towel on your ankle for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours
- stop any bleeding put pressure on the wound using a clean cloth or dressing
- wrap your ankle loosely in a bandage to help support it
- remove any jewellery on your ankle or toes
- not take ibuprofen until you have seen a doctor
- not eat or drink anything in case you need surgery
- not move or put weight on your ankle if possible
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