Ankle Fractures: Diagnosis, Non-Surgical Treatment & Surgeries

I was walking home from work one day when I tripped and fell. I landed on my ankle and heard a loud crack. I knew right away that I had broken it.

I went to the hospital and had an X-ray. The doctor confirmed that I had a fractured ankle. He said that I would need to wear a cast for six weeks.

The cast was very uncomfortable. It made it difficult to walk and I had to use crutches. I also had to wear a boot at night.

After six weeks, I had the cast removed. I was so happy to be able to walk again. However, my ankle was still weak and I had to wear a brace for a few more weeks.

It took a few months for my ankle to fully heal. I was finally able to return to my normal activities. I learned a valuable lesson from this experience: always be careful when you are walking.

What Is an Ankle Fracture?

A fracture is when a bone breaks in two or more places. Ankle fractures can range from small pieces of bone that have been pulled off (avulsion injuries) to major breaks in the tibia, fibula, or both.

Ankle fractures are a common injury that usually happens when the ankle rolls in or out. People often think that an ankle fracture is the same as an ankle sprain, but they are very different and need to be diagnosed correctly and quickly. They sometimes happen at the same time.


An ankle injury can cause any or all of the following:

  • Pain at the fracture site, which can sometimes go from the foot to the knee.
  • There is a lot of swelling, which can happen all along the leg or in one spot.
  • Over the break, there may be blisters. A foot and ankle expert should take care of these right away.
  • Bruising that develops soon after the injury
  • Bruising that appears quickly after an injury or Foot or Ankle Tendonitis.
  • Can’t walk. However, you can walk with less serious breaks, so don’t use walking as a test to see if a bone is broken.
  • The ankle will look different; it won’t be the same as the other ankle.
  • Bone sticking out of the skin is a sign that the person needs help right away. Fractures that go through the skin need to be treated right away because they can cause a serious infection and take a long time to heal.


When you hurt your ankle, it’s important to get it checked out by a foot and ankle surgeon so you can get the right evaluation and care. If you can’t see a foot and ankle surgeon right away, go to the emergency room and then see one as soon as you can for a more complete evaluation.

The foot and ankle surgeon will touch certain parts of the injured limb to figure out how bad the injury is. The surgeon may also order X-rays or other imaging tests if they are needed.

Non-Surgical Treatment

Treatment for ankle fractures relies on what kind of injury it is and how bad it is. At first, the foot and ankle surgeon will tell you to follow the R.I.C.E. protocol:

  • Rest: Don’t put any weight on the ankle. Walking could hurt you even more.
  • Ice: Put a small towel between the ice pack and the skin where the injury is. Use ice for 20 minutes, then wait at least 40 minutes before icing again.
  • Compression: To stop swelling, you should use a tight wrap.
  • Elevation: To reduce swelling, your ankle should be raised just a little bit above the level of your heart.

Some other treatment options are:

  • Immobilization. For some ankle fractures and foot injuries, a cast or splint is used to support and limit the ankle and foot. This lets the bone get better.
  • Prescription medications. For pain relief, the surgeon may give you painkillers or drugs that stop inflammation.

When is Surgery Needed?

Some broken ankles need surgery to fix the break and any other soft tissue damage that may be present. The foot and ankle surgeon will choose the right treatment for your injury.

Follow-up Care

After surgery, it’s important to do what your therapist tells you to do. If you don’t, you could get an illness, a disability, arthritis, or have pain that doesn’t go away.

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