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Surgical Repair for an Ankle Fracture
Ankle fractures are common and can happen from twisting an ankle, falling, car accidents and sports injuries. You need an x-ray if an ankle injury occurs and results in pain, bruising, swelling and difficulty moving the ankle.
Limping and taking it in stride can lead to serious problems. The ankle is an important joint, so quick treatment is necessary.
Ankle fractures and treatment
When is surgery necessary?
In the most severe cases, when the bone of the ankle is poking through the skin, you would know that surgery is necessary.
However, it does not have to be that severe to require surgery. If the ankle fracture is unstable or in a bad position, then your doctor may recommend surgery.
If your ankle is in a stable position, then the fracture can heal without surgery.
If you do not treat your ankle fracture, you can develop ankle arthritis or a permanent limp.
What is ankle surgery like?
Your doctor will give you antibiotics before surgery to make sure no infection occurs.
You will also receive anesthesia. Some patients are put to sleep for the procedure while others only require local anesthesia.
A surgeon makes incisions over the ankle to expose the fracture. Depending on the severity and type of fracture, an open reduction or an internal fixation will take place.
An open reduction is when the pieces of the bone are put back together much like a jigsaw puzzle.
Internal fixation is when the broken bones are positioned correctly and then held together by screws or plates. This method provides additional stability during the healing process.
What is the healing process like?
Once the ankle is repaired, a protective cast or a boot is placed on the leg.
The ankle will be unusable for a few weeks as the wound heal. The benefit of a boot over a cast is that it can be removed to wash, ice and check the healing process of the wounds.
Healing happens through slow progression. If you are given a cast, your doctor will eventually replace it with a boot.
Over time you will be weaned from the boot and can slowly return to normal activities.
It is not uncommon for it to take up to a year to fully heal. Everyone heals differently, and some may require physical therapy to regain range of motion.
For those who undergo internal fixation, the additional hardware will stay in the ankle unless it causes problems. Problems are rare but can include pain or irritation.
When to schedule an appointment?
If you believe that you have suffered an ankle fracture, then seek immediate medical help. If you are unsure, look for swelling, pain, bruising and problems with ankle movement.
The sooner a doctor treats your ankle fracture, the better the chances are for healing and returning to sports and normal life.
If you do not have a doctor, call our office to see if you need ankle surgery.
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