Ankle Fracture Surgery – What to Expect

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A fractured ankle can render you virtually immobile and can make going about your life and performing day-to-day tasks very difficult. An ankle fracture means that one or more of the bones on your ankle joint are broken. There are three bones that make up the ankle joint – the tibia and the fibula which are leg bones, and the talus which is a foot bone.

The ends of those bones which meet to form the ankle are called ‘malleoli’. An ankle is said to be fractured when a malleolus or several malleoli have fractured or broken. A fracture in one bone does not necessarily stop you from using that foot, but several fractures will compel you to stop putting pressure on that ankle for up to a few months.

Several fractures will require ankle fracture surgery, the main purpose of which is to enable the ankle joint to heal in a normal shape and decrease any chance of getting ankle arthritis in the future.

The Ankle Fracture Surgery Procedure

An Ankle fracture surgery differs depending on the type of fracture. In fractures where the bone is simply unstable because it is out of place, the surgery involves just a simple alignment. The bone fragments are repositioned into the normal alignment and held together with special metal plates and screws. An impacted fracture in which one bone fragment is driven into another can be mended by a procedure involving bone grafting.

During the procedure, your surgeon will first administer antibiotics to help control infection and anesthesia to help ease any discomfort. Depending on the extent of the surgery, it may either be anesthesia injected into the ankle area or the patient may be put to sleep so that there is absolutely no movement during the procedure.

Next, incisions are made through which the fractures can be repaired. Small bone fragments, if any, are removed, and then screws and plates are inserted and fixed as required. Once the treatment process is completed, the incisions will then be closed.

Recovery After Ankle Fracture Surgery

A minor fracture surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure, requiring no hospital stay. Major procedures may require a patient to stay a day or two in the hospital after the surgery has been performed.

Bones take at least six weeks to heal, with severe fractures taking up to 12 weeks to heal. After the surgery, it’s best to avoid putting a lot of weight on the treated ankle. Once the incisions have healed, a cast or a boot will be fitted on the ankle. It is recommended that patients avoid putting any weight on the ankle for 4 to 10 weeks, depending on the severity of the fracture that was fixed.

Normal activities, including driving, can be resumed in about three to four months, but more rigorous activities like sports will need to wait even up to a year or more if the fix is to be long-lasting. The screws and plates will remain in the ankle unless they start causing any issues such as irritation or pain.

Your doctor will monitor the healing of the ankle over the recovery period with regular x-rays. Some patients may also require some physical therapy to regain ankle strength and full movement of the joint.

Contact Our Office

It’s best to treat an ankle injury as early as possible to avoid any permanent damage. For any inquiries about ankle surgery and what the procedure entails, contact our office. Dr. Kevin James, a board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon, can help mend your ankle and provide you with the comfort you desire.