Fracture Repair: Ankle

The 26 Review

  • What is an Ankle Fracture Repair  Realignment and repair of a broken ankle
  • How Using metal plates, wires, or screws, the ankle bones will be realigned and stabilized.
  • Why To restore proper ankle alignment, function, and relieve pain 
  • Recommended for Patients that experience severe pain in the ankle and/or loss of function
  • Length of Treatment This procedure takes 1-2 hours to complete.
  • Downtime Roughly 3 months before resuming activities

Let’s take a closer look…

An ankle fracture is one of the most common causes of ankle pain. This fracture occurs when an individual breaks one or more bones in the ankle joint. The ankle joints consist of the tibia, fibula, and talus. If individuals break one or more ankle bones at the same time, it can cause serious injury. It is hard to differentiate between a sprained ankle and a broken ankle, until proper diagnosis is performed. Some symptoms to look out for include sudden, severe pain in the ankle, difficulty applying weight to the ankle, pain induced by touching the ankle, and bruising or swelling of the ankle. Most individuals break their ankle after taking a direct hit to the ankle or they could’ve fallen hard and struck the wrong area. Some other ways an ankle fracture may occur include being in a car accident, playing sports, particularly sports where one is likely to be hit in the ankle or make sudden twisting movements, falling from a significant height, tripping and falling, or by taking a misstep and “rolling” the ankle. There are several types of ankle fractures that can affect different parts of the ankle, since the ankle is made up of three bones and multiple ligaments. The following are the different types of ankle fractures; lateral malleolus fractures, medial malleolus fracture, bimalleolar ankle fracture. Bimalleolar equivalent fracture posterior malleolus fracture, trimalleolar fracture, pilon fracture, maisonneuve fracture, and syndesmotic injury. If you or someone you know is experiencing intense ankle pain, swelling, bruising, or difficulty walking, it is highly advised to speak with a medical professional to determine if surgery is right for you.

Procedure Details: Pre, During & Post Surgery Expectations

When the ankle is fractured, it becomes unstable, requiring surgery to repair the ankle to its natural state. Prior to surgery, it is crucial to speak with a medical professional to obtain proper diagnosis and receive X-rays. Antibiotics will be administered to patients before the start of the surgery. Once a patient receives antibiotics and general anesthesia, the surgery can safely begin. To prepare for general anesthesia, patients should:

  • Avoid food or drinks for 8 hours before going to the hospital or clinic
  • Halt smoking 2 weeks prior to the procedure 
  • Stop taking herbal supplements and anti-inflammatory medications 
  • Inform the doctor of any blood pressure medications being taken

As surgery begins, an incision will be made through the skin of the ankle where the bones are broken. In simple terms, the bone break is then repositioned and held in place with implants (screws and metal plates). After the ankle fracture is repaired, the patient’s leg will be placed in a protective splint, cast, or boot. Most patients can return home the same day as their surgery, however some may stay overnight to be monitored. With an open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) surgery, an incision is made over the ankle to see the fractured bone. And like a puzzle, the pieces of broken bone are placed back together. The broken bones are held together with metal plates and/or screws. This internal fixation provides stability so movement can begin sooner after surgery has taken place. Ankle fractures can take a long time to heal, but recovery typically depends on how much damage was done to the ankle. Most patients can place weight on their ankle after 6-8 weeks, but some individuals can take as long as two years to heal completely. 

Benefits and Risk Factors

Like every surgery, there are significant benefits and potential complications that can occur. The main benefits include pain relief, reduced swelling, and increased mobility and stability. Some complications can include acute compartment syndrome, malunion, bone infection, and nerve or blood vessel damage. If you’re still experiencing intense pain and/or pressure after an ankle fracture repair, reach out to your podiatrist or medical provider. 

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