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For many of our patients an ankle fracture can be treated with immobilizing and supporting the ankle. This allows the bones to heal and then we follow up with physical therapy to help rebuild the muscles and allow you to safely walk, run, play sports and have confidence that the ankle is just as good as new.
However, in many cases there are multiple bones that are broken in the ankle or the fracture may be severe or complicated and surgery may be required. In some cases, and this is surprising to many of our patients, they may have had one or more bones fracture and then heal incorrectly, resulting in long term complications with pain, instability of the joint or problems when walking, running or even when standing.
Symptoms of an Ankle Fracture
Before looking into how operative treatments can correct broken bones in the ankle, it is important to understand the symptoms. Often people don’t go to their doctor or for emergency treatment because they mistakenly assume that the broken bone is just a sprain or a strain.
The most common signs of an ankle fracture include extreme pain that happens immediately when you fall, slip, trip or twist the foot, swelling and bruising, difficulty in walking or putting any weight on the foot and a foot that seems to be turning in, out or up or down.
Surgery to Correct Problems
It is not uncommon with a fractured ankle to have bones break and twist out of place. In this case surgery is required to put the bones back into correct alignment. Often when this happens the entire ankle continues to be unstable so small specially designed rods, screws and plates are used to hold the bones in the right location during the healing process.
If the break is at the tibia where it joins to the talus (the bone that connects to the heel) surgery is often used to correct the broken bone, especially if the force was enough to cause the tibia to go into the talus. In some cases if the bone is actually shattered, a bone graft can be completed and then surgical wire or plates and screws will hold the new bone in place while the grafted bone fuses.
The number of screws and plates needed, or the technique we recommend, will be discussed with you in advance of the procedure. The good news for all our patients is that these surgical procedures are very effective in allowing you to get back to using your foot and walking much sooner than non-surgical options.