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Ankle Fracture

A broken ankle is also known as an ankle “fracture.” This means that one or more of the bones that make up the ankle joint are separated into pieces. There may be ligaments damaged as well.

Simply put, the more bones that are broken, the more unstable the ankle becomes.

A fractured ankle can range from a simple break in one bone, which may not stop you from walking, to several fractures, which forces your ankle out of place and may require that you not put weight on it for three months.

Causes:

  • “Twisting” or rotating your ankle
  • “Rolled” your ankle
  • Tripping or falling
  • Impact during a car accident

Since there is such a wide range of injuries, there is also a wide range of how people heal after their injury.

Broken ankles affect all ages. Ankle fractures occur in 184 per 100,000 persons per year. During the past 30 to 40 years, doctors have noted an increase in the number and severity of broken ankles, due in part to an active, older population of “baby boomers.” In 2003, nearly 1.2 million people visited emergency rooms because of ankle problems.

Symptoms:

Because a severe ankle sprain can feel the same as a broken ankle, every ankle injury should be evaluated by a physician.

Common complaints for a broken ankle include:

  • Immediate and severe pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tender to touch
  • Cannot put any weight on the injured foot

Deformity (“out of place”), particularly if the ankle joint is dislocated as well

Types of Ankle Fractures:

The type of ankle fracture classification depends upon the location of the fracture and which bones of the ankle are fractured. There can be one bone injured, or multiple bones injured. The type and severity of the fracture will determine the treatment by the orthopedic surgeon; a classification list is as follows:

Lateral Malleolus Fracture:
The lateral malleolus is the bump on the outer part of the ankle and is made up of the fibula bone.

Medial Malleolus Fracture:
The medial malleolus is the bump on the inside of the ankle and is made up of the tibia bone.

Posterior Malleolus Fracture:
The posterior malleolus is the bony prominence of the tibia, and is rarely injured on its own.

Bimalleolar Fractures:

  • “Bi” means two, so two bones of the ankle are fractured with a bimalleolar fracture.
  • Most commonly the lateral malleolus and the medial malleolus are the bones that are fractured.
  • Bimalleolar fractures often make the ankle joint unstable.

Trimalleolar Fractures:

  • “Tri” means three so in a trimalleolar fracture, all three malleoli (medial, lateral and posterior) bones of the ankle are broken.
  • These are unstable injuries often caused by a large amount of force, disruption of the ligaments, or a dislocation.

Syndesmotic Injury:

  • Also called “high ankle sprains”
  • Usually a result of ankle eversion (outward twisting of the ankle joint).
  • May or may not be associated with an actual fracture of the bones of the ankle, but is often treated as a fracture.

There are other names for ankle injuries; however, most will fit into the general types listed above.

Broken Ankle Medical Treatment and Surgery

  • Doctors usually place a splint on the injured ankle for a few days to 2 weeks until the swelling decreases around the joint. The type of fracture and the stability of the fractured joint will determine the type of splint that will be used, or whether surgery is needed.
  • If the ankle bones are not aligned properly, the doctor may realign them before placing the splint.
  • If the bones cannot be realigned properly in the emergency department, then the patient may require an operation.
  • Surgery will also be needed if any bone has broken through the skin. If the bone breaks through the skin, the fracture is then called a compound fracture. This is more serious than a simple fracture.

It is important to remember that every ankle injury should be evaluated by a physician. If you think you have injured an ankle, contact our office to speak to one of our physicians at (561) 840-1090.