What is an Ankle Fracture?
When bones break, either partially or fully they as classified as fractures. The variation in fractures is expansive from minor injuries to complete shatters. Not all ankle fractures are the same! If you were to assess all the fractures that existed, you’d find that there’d be a bell curved distribution of the fractures with a few being the most popular classifications.
Lateral malleolus fracture, Medial malleolus fracture, Posterior malleolus fracture...the list goes on! The nature of ankle fractures is that they are very prevalent. The ankle is a hinge, and is susceptible to shears if the appropriate rotations and shears are applied to the area. The symptoms of ankle fractures and ankle sprains are similar, so consult with your foot and ankle surgeon in order to determine what the root cause of your ankle pain is!
What are the symptoms of an Ankle Fracture?
There are multitude of symptoms that contribute to the condition of an ankle fracture:
Pain is the initial sign, usually after an incident such as a twisting of the foot during activities such as sporting activities. The pain may be localized at the ankle joint, or be felt all the way up to the knees.The patient also finds it hard to walk due to the pain, and the instability of the joint.
Swelling. Similar to the pain, the swelling can either be localized at the ankle or spread to the rest of the leg up to the knee.
Blisters at the fracture site as well as a discoloration of the leg.
Bone protrusion due to the shifting in the alignment of the leg.
The following is the anatomy of the ankle joint.
How are Ankle Fractures Diagnosed?
A detailed evaluation by a foot and ankle surgeon is a sure way for the ankle fracture to be diagnosed and treated. Attempt to have the foot addressed as soon as possible after the fracture. If possible, begin at an emergency room for an initial assessment, and they will subsequently refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon. Via internal checks via imaging technology such as X-rays, the appropriate diagnoses can be determined.
How are Ankle Fractures Treated?
When an ankle is fractured, there is the possibility for the fracture of one or more bones. Depending on the severity, there are various treatment solutions that you will be prescribed in order to ensure that the weight pressure is removed from the leg, and the healing process is allowed to take place. The ankle stability will be influenced by the extent of the fractures to the bones, and the surrounding ligament damage.
Based on the anatomy of the ankle, shown in the image above, one can see that there are a group of bones that make up the ankle joint. These include the tibia and the fibula, which are the main bones. The tibia and fibula can be further dissected into the:
Medial malleolus - inside part of the tibia
Posterior malleolus - back part of the tibia
Lateral malleolus - end of the fibula
Fractures can take place in each of these regions. When the ankle region is aggravated due to rotation, rolling of the ankle, or any traumatic impact. The types of treatments that can be applied to the area are:
Nonsurgical Treatments: If the bone alignment is minor, the fracture can be protected and allowed to heal. These methods include casting the leg, so that it it held in place and allowed to refuse.
Surgical Treatments: For bones where the alignment displacement is significant, and the fracture pattern is unstable, the fracture has to be surgically treated. During surgery, the bone fragments must be re-aligned with internal scaffolding - plates and screws. Additionally, if the fracture is not too severe, the injury can be treated with minimally invasive techniques.