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Ankle Fractures

A fracture or break in the bones of the ankle joint can range from a small chip off the bone to a major dislocation with shattering of the bones. This commonly occurs with an injury where the ankle rolls. This can be mistaken for an ankle sprain, but is very different and requires immediate treatment for the best possible outcome.

Signs and symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, redness, difficulty walking or moving the ankle joint. In severe cases, there may be blistering or an abnormal appearance of the ankle if dislocation has occurred. If bone is seen protruding through the skin, seek immediate treatment at a local emergency room.

So you’ve rolled your ankle and have some of the signs of a possible ankle fracture. What do you do now? Remember the RICE principle: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Do not continue with your current activity and use crutches until advised otherwise. Apply ice 20-30 minutes per hour you are awake, but please protect your skin with a towel. If possible, wrap the ankle with a snug Ace bandage being careful not to wrap too tightly. And elevate your foot off the floor to at least your hip level. All of these things should reduce your pain until you can be evaluated by your doctor.

Treatment of ankle fractures can range from immobilization for simple cases or surgery for severe cases. Xrays will be taken first to evaluate whether or not your bones are broken and how severe the break or breaks may be. Immobilization is necessary for all fractures to allow appropriate bone healing which means a below knee cast or boot. Pain medication and/or anti-inflammatories will help reduce discomfort and pain as well. Without appropriate care of ankle fractures, long term complications can include pain, arthritis and severe ankle and foot deformity.