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Ankle fracture: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About ankle fracture

It is a fracture of the ankle joint which is a complex joint made up of three bones, including the tibia, the fibula and the talus. The tibia, also called the shin bone is the main weight bearing bone of the lower leg. The fibula is a smaller bone placed on the outer side of the leg and the talus is the bone connecting the leg and foot. A partial or a complete break in any of these three bones is termed as an ankle fracture. Mostly, it is the lower end of the tibia or the fibula which is involved in an ankle fracture. Fracture of the talus is a very rare occurrence.

Ankle fracture: Incidence, age and sex

The fracture of an ankle is not uncommon among the general population. It may be seen in an individual of any age group but there is a higher chance of occurrence in post menopausal women. It is rarely seen in infants.

Signs and symptoms of ankle fracture: Diagnosis

The fracture of ankle may present with ankle pain that exacerbates on touching. The pain may be associated with a swelling or a bruise at the fracture site. Difficulty in walking may be a prominent feature. On physical evaluation, the ankle surgeon may find some deformity of the affected ankle. The affected ankle may have an unusual physical appearance as compared to a normal ankle. The surgeon may advise some imaging tests like an X-ray to ascertain and confirm the diagnosis.

Causes and prevention of ankle fracture

The ankle fracture may take place due to a sudden inward or outward movement of ankle. Post- menopausal women are more prone to fracture owing to reduced density of bones. Some sport activities like skiing, skating and gymnastics carry increased risk of ankle fractures.

Ankle fractures may be prevented by a diet high in calcium and vitamin D which helps in the building of bones. Its demand is excessively augmented in post menopausal women. In addition, muscle strengthening exercises help in providing good support and stability to the bones and joint.

Ankle fracture: Complications

Ankle fracture usually heals completely without resulting in complications. But the fracture has a high chance of getting infected if the fractured bone pierces through the skin. Moreover it can also lead to chronic ankle pain which may result due to inadequate rest to the ankle joint. Complications may happen even after the correction of the ankle fracture. In some individuals, life- long arthritis and deformity of ankle joint may occur as a result of mal-alignment of fractured bones.

Ankle fracture: Treatment

The goal of treatment is to minimise pain and swelling long with alignment of bones together in a proper position. Cold compress and painkillers may help in reducing pain and swelling. Immobilisation of the ankle joint is essential for good healing of the fracture which can be done by splinting the ankle or applying a plaster cast over the ankle joint. Sometimes surgical intervention may be essential to repair the fracture. Aligning the fractured bones with screws or rods or metal plate are some of the surgical modalities which are used. Ankle joints usually take one or two months to heal. Adequate antibiotic cover is needed if the fractured bone pierces through the skin. It is recommended to keep the affected ankle elevated to prevent swelling and speed up the healing process.