Osteoporosis and Ankle Fracture Repair

With osteoporosis, you're at extra risk for breaking a bone, or "fracturing" it. With a fall or even a simple misstep, you could break your ankle. Doctors say they’re seeing more broken ankles, and they’re more severe as adults stay active later in life.

If you injure your ankle, it may swell up, hurt, and bruise. You'll find it hard to walk. But you probably won’t be off your feet for too long. There are treatments, including surgery, that will get you moving again. Here's what to expect.

Diagnosis

What your doctor recommends depends on the type of break you have and how severe it is. He'll look at X-rays or other scans to figure out the best approach.

Your doctor has two options to fix your broken ankle. If it's stable and the bones are still in place, he may put you in a cast, splint, boot, or brace. It stops you from moving the joint while it heals, which can take about 6 weeks. But you may need surgery if your ankle is out of place or isn't stable enough to hold your body weight.

A medical assessment may be needed to see if there is any underlying fragility or osteoporosis that may have led to a fracture.

Repair and Recovery

Putting your broken bones back together requires some hardware. Your doctor will use metal screws or plates. They’ll keep your ankle stable and allow it heal. He might add a new piece of bone in a procedure called a graft.

After surgery, you'll have to keep your ankle still, probably for a few weeks. Once you're back home, your doctor might recommend that you raise it and apply ice to keep swelling down. You'll wear a splint, boot, or cast to hold the joint in place while it heals. You won't be able to put any weight on it.

After 6 to 8 weeks, you'll switch to a special boot and begin to walk on your ankle. You may work with a physical therapist, who’ll teach you exercises to help you move your joint again. Other moves that can strengthen your ankle will follow.

It may take several months for the muscles around your ankle to get strong enough for you to walk without a limp. It will take a bit longer to return to your regular activities and from 6 months to a year to fully heal.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on December 13, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Ankle Fractures (Broken Ankle)."

American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons: "Ankle Fractures Often Not Diagnosed."

American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society: "Ankle Fracture Surgery."

University of Michigan Health System: "Ankle Fracture."

European Federation of National Associations of Orthopaedics and Traumatology: “Management of Ankle Fractures in the Elderly.”

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