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Ankle Fractures

Medical Treatment

If surgery is not required, the type of fracture and the stability of your joint will determine the type of splint or cast that will be used and how long it will need to be in place.

  • If your bones are not aligned properly, the doctor may realign them before placing the splint or cast.
    • If the bones cannot be realigned properly in the emergency department, then you may require an operation.
    • An operation 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.
  • Some minor ankle fractures do not require a splint or cast. In these cases the fracture will be managed as an ankle sprain.
    • Because these fractures are very small, they typically heal well with this management.
    • With any injured ankle, however, you should not bear weight until your doctor says it is OK to do so.
  • After the swelling decreases and you are reexamined, then an orthopedic doctor or your primary care doctor may place a better-fitting cast or splint on the ankle. Depending on the type of fracture, you may be placed in a walking cast, which can bear some weight, or you may still need a non-weight-bearing cast that will require the use of crutches to help you walk.
  • Depending on the degree of pain you are experiencing, your doctor may give you prescription-strength pain medication. These should be used only as needed. You should not drive or operate heavy machinery while using these medications.

Next Steps Follow-up

Follow-up care for an ankle fracture depends on the severity of the fracture.

  • You may need emergency surgery, next-day follow-up, or follow-up in 1-2 weeks with an orthopedic doctor.
  • You may require only follow-up with your family doctor.
    • If you were splinted on your initial visit, you will probably need to have a cast placed on your ankle during your follow-up visit.
    • The average fracture requires 4-8 weeks for the bone to heal.

Prevention

Preventing ankle fractures can be difficult.

  • Many occur as "slip and fall" incidents. Being careful in your activities is the best prevention.
  • Proper footwear when participating in sports also may reduce your risk.

Outlook

Most simple fractures heal well with immobilization and non-weight-bearing activity.

  • You can expect most ankle fractures depending on how severe they are, to take 4-8 weeks for the bones to heal completely and up to several months to regain full use and range of motion of the joint.
  • More severe fractures, especially those requiring surgical repair, will take longer to heal.
  • Fractures of any type increase your likelihood of developing arthritis in the affected joint. The more severe the fracture, the higher the risk of developing some degree of arthritis.

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

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