What is an ankle fracture?
The ankle is a hinge joint made up of three bones (the tibia, the fibula and the talus). An ankle fracture is a break or crack to one or more of the ankle bones. This injury can happen for many reasons, ranging from twisting your ankle after stepping off a curb or whilst playing sport to falling from a height or a road traffic accident. The severity of an ankle fracture can greatly vary, which then defines the symptoms and treatment required.
What are the symptoms of an ankle fracture?
The main symptoms of an ankle fracture include immediate pain, swelling and difficulty putting weight through the ankle. In severe cases the ankle may be deformed or the fractured bone can even protrude through the skin. You should seek medical advice if you have the symptoms of an ankle fracture.
How is an ankle fracture treated?
Initially you will need to be examined by a doctor and have an X-ray to confirm that there is a fracture. The treatment for an ankle fracture will depend on the number of broken bones, the position of the bones and your general health. Typically there are two types of treatment options, that include non-surgical and surgical.
Non-surgical treatment is for stable and well aligned ankle fractures. In most cases you will need the ankle to be immobilised for up to six weeks.
Initially you will be placed into a temporary cast below the knee (back-slab) to allow the swelling to settle. You can then be transferred into either a full cast below the knee or a surgical boot. The medical team looking after you will advise on how much weight you can put through your leg.
Surgical treatment may be required to fix the bones with plates and screws if the ankle fracture is unstable and not well aligned. If you have swelling, you may have to wait until the swelling has gone down before you can have surgery. Keeping your leg elevated will help reduce the swelling. Your doctor will discuss with you in more detail what surgical treatment for an ankle fracture involves and explain the surgical risks.
Patients that have a healthy diet, take regular exercise and refrain from smoking are more likely to experience a quicker recovery with a more successful outcome from their surgery.
If you have any concerns about your general health and well-being (diet, exercise, smoking cessation) you are encouraged to discuss this with your GP, who will be able to provide advice on the options available to you.