Ankle fractures are common injuries often due to the rolling inward or outward of the ankle. Fractures affecting the ankle can range from minor avulsion injuries to significant crushing-type damage affecting the fibula, tibia or both.
Many mistake ankle fractures for a sprain, but they are relatively different and require a prompt and accurate diagnosis. Take note that they oftentimes occur simultaneously.
What are the indications?
Ankle fractures are generally accompanied by one or several of these indications:
- Pain or discomfort at the fracture site which can extend from the foot up to the ankle
- Evident swelling that might arise throughout the length of the leg or localized
- Formation of blisters over the site of the fracture
- Bruising that forms soon after the injury
- Difficulty or inability to walk
- Changes in the appearance of the ankle
- Protrusion of bone through the skin
After an injury to the ankle, it is vital to have it assessed by a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. If the individual could not do so right away, bring him/her to the emergency department and follow up with the doctor as soon as possible so that a thorough assessment can be done.
The damaged limb is assessed by touching specific sites to evaluate the injury. Additionally, the surgeon might request X-rays and other imaging tests as needed.
Management of ankle fractures
The treatment for ankle fractures are based on the type and severity of the break. Initially, the doctor will recommend the RICE method.
- Rest – the individual should avoid using the affected ankle since walking can worsen the injury
- Ice – apply an ice pack on the site of the fracture for 20 minutes and wait at least 40 minutes before applying the pack again
- Compression – an elastic wrap must be used to minimize the swelling
- Elevation – the affected ankle must be elevated slightly above the level of the heart to reduce the swelling
Additional treatment options that can be used include:
- Immobilization – in some cases of ankle fractures, they are managed by protecting and limiting movement of the ankle and foot using a splint or cast to allow the bone to heal
- Prescription medications – the doctor might prescribe pain medications or anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve the pain
Is surgery necessary?
In some cases of ankle fractures, surgery is required to fix the break and other soft tissue injuries if present. The doctor will choose the ideal procedure for the injury.
Quick Note / Disclaimer
The material posted on this page on ankle fractures is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage this type of fracture, register for a first aid and CPR course with Saskatoon First Aid.