Doctors usually place a splint on your injured ankle for a few days to 2 weeks until the swelling goes down around the joint. The type of fracture and the stability of your joint will determine the type of splint that will be used.
- If your 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 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 heal well with this management.
- With any injured ankle, however, you should not bear weight until a cast is placed or you are pain free.
- After the swelling decreases and you are reexamined, then an orthopedic doctor or your primary care doctor may place a better-fitting cast 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.
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.
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.