A fracture, or broken bone, can occur for any number of reasons. Ankle fractures can be partial or complete, and they can cause significant pain and mobility problems. If you believe you may have suffered an ankle fracture, our skilled orthopaedic surgeons can help diagnose and treat your condition. Some indications you may have a fractured ankle include significant swelling, pain, bruising, difference in appearance from the other uninjured ankle, and (potentially) bone protrusion in severe cases. Any ankle injury should be evaluated to determine what, if any, treatment should be applied to ensure the fullest recovery possible. At Garden State Orthopaedic Associates, we are dedicated to a patient-focused and conservative approach. We will never recommend surgery unless needed, and only after trying minimally invasive techniques first.
Common Causes of Ankle Fracture
A fracture can happen suddenly or over time due to stress and repeated movements. Some of the most common causes of an ankle fracture are:
- Twisting or rotating your ankle
- Rolling your ankle
- Tripping or falling
- Impact during an accident
An acute (sudden) injury that causes a fracture typically causes significant and immediate pain. Stress fractures, on the other hand, will cause increasing pain over time, or they may suddenly become painful. If your ankle is swollen, tender to the touch, bruised, and you cannot put weight on that side, you should schedule a consultation right away with your primary care physician or an orthopaedic surgeon you trust.
Ankle Fracture Treatment Options
Most fractures can be treated without the need for surgery, and we will evaluate your condition to determine if non-surgical and minimally invasive techniques will be sufficient for your case. It’s less common, but with severe ankle fractures an operation may be necessary to set the bone or to remove bone chips that could cause an infection. Using imaging technology (X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and/or other options), our surgeons can determine if more aggressive treatment will be needed. During your examination, we will identify whether one or more bones have broken (the ankle is made up of the end of the tibia and fibula bones, which make up the lower leg, and the talus, the “ankle bone”) and how severely they and the surrounding tissues are damaged.
Non-Surgical Treatments for a Broken Ankle
If the fracture is mild to moderate and stable, simply protecting the ankle joint while it heals may be enough to restore your strength and mobility in this area. A splint, brace, cast, or even high-top tennis shoe may be recommended to stabilize the ankle. Recovery typically takes about six weeks. Pain medication can be prescribed if needed, although many patients are comfortable using over-the-counter pain relief such as Aleve® or Tylenol®. Physical therapy will be recommended to strengthen the muscles in the area and help to reduce the chance of a recurrence.
Surgical Treatments for a Broken Ankle
In the event surgery is recommended, it is usually due to one or more bones being significantly out of place, impacted bone (where one bone is forced into the end of the other), or nonunion (poor healing) is considered to be a risk. Screws, plates, or other wiring techniques may be used to secure the bone and ensure the optimal outcome. As with the non-surgical treatment, six weeks is the standard amount of time it takes for a broken bone to heal. A longer recovery is common if tendons, ligaments, or other soft tissues are also damaged. Medications will be prescribed to minimize your discomfort, and physical therapy will be recommended to aid in the healing process.
If you suffered from an ankle injury or suspect a fracture, contact our medical team to schedule a consultation. We will work with you to diagnose your concern, customize a treatment plan, and help you restore function and mobility as quickly and effectively as possible.