An ankle fracture, commonly known as a broken ankle, involves any type of break or crack in the tibia, fibula, or talus. Common causes of an ankle fracture may include a sports injury, a motor vehicle accident or a fall. An ankle fracture can include injury to one or more of the bones that make up the ankle joint. The more bones that are broken, the more complicated and severe the fracture is. Treatment for a broken ankle depends on the type and severity of the individual fracture, but may include wearing a cast or brace, applying ice and taking anti-inflammatory medication. Stable fractures can usually heal on their own within a few weeks, while more complicated ones may require surgery to reposition the broken bone.
Symptoms of an Ankle Fracture
Individuals with an ankle fracture may experience difficulty walking or putting weight on the affected ankle. Additional symptoms may include:
- Physical deformity
Because the ankle and foot may become very swollen, it may be difficult for some people with a broken ankle to put shoes on.
Diagnosis of an Ankle Fracture
An ankle fracture is diagnosed through a physical examination and diagnostic imaging tests that may include:
- CT scan
- MRI scan
A bone scan may also be performed to determine which parts of the bone have been damaged.
Treatment of an Ankle Fracture
Treatment for an ankle fracture varies depending on the type and severity of the individual fracture. Medication may be prescribed to control inflammation and treat pain. Resting, applying ice and elevating the ankle, are all methods that can contribute to the healing of the fracture. In most cases, a cast or brace will be used while the ankle heals. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to reposition the broken bone.
Although the methods used to treat ankle fractures vary, rehabilitation is always necessary after the initial treatment, to restore full movement and mobility to the ankle and help the patient return to all usual activities. After the ankle bone has healed from the initial treatment for the fracture, and patients can bear weight on the joint, a physical therapy regimen is implemented to strengthen muscles and increase mobility. Without proper rehabilitation, complications such as chronic pain, inflammation and weakness, may cause difficulty walking and performing physical activities.