Ankle Fracture Surgery

What is Ankle Fracture Surgery?

A broken ankle is also known as an ankle “fracture.” This means that one or more of the bones that make up the ankle joint are broken.

A fractured ankle can range from a simple break in one bone, which may not stop you from walking, to several fractures, which force your ankle out of place and may require that you not put weight on it for a few months.

Simply put, the more bones that are broken, the more unstable the ankle becomes. There may be ligaments damaged as well. The ligaments of the ankle hold the ankle bones and joint in position.

Severe fractures require ankle fracture surgery. The exact procedure differs depending on the specific type of fracture, and whether the bones have impacted each other (one end of one bone driven into the end of another bone) because of great force.

Treatment

The procedures for ankle fracture surgery treatment differ based on the specific type of fracture that you have.

Fractures like a lateral malleolus fracture of the tibia, where the fracture is simply out of place or unstable, can be fixed with simple alignment surgery. During this type of procedure, the bone fragments are first repositioned (reduced) into their normal alignment. They are held together with special screws and metal plates attached to the outer surface of the bone. In some cases, a screw or rod inside the bone may be used to keep the bone fragments together while they heal.

More complicated fractures like a medial malleolus fracture can involve impaction or indenting of the ankle joint. Repairing an impacted fracture may require bone grafting. This graft acts as scaffolding for new bone to grow on, and may lower any later risk of developing arthritis.

Depending on the fracture, the bone fragments may be fixed using screws, a plate and screws, or different wiring techniques.

Recovery Time

Because there is such a wide range of injuries, there is also a wide range of people’s specific recovery time for ankle fracture surgery.  It takes at least 6 weeks for the broken bones to heal. It may take longer for the involved ligaments and tendons to heal.

Your doctor will most likely monitor the bone healing with repeated x-rays.

Although most people return to normal daily activities, except for sports, within 3 to 4 months, studies have shown that people can still be recovering up to 2 years after their ankle fractures. It may take several months for you to stop limping while you walk, and before you can return to sports at your previous competitive level. Most people return to driving within 9 to 12 weeks from the time they were injured.

It is very important to not put weight on your ankle until your physician says you can. If you put weight on the injured ankle too early, the fracture fragments may move or your surgery may fail and you may have to start over. Your specific fracture determines when you can start putting weight on your ankle. Your physician will allow you to start putting weight on your ankle when he or she feels your injury is stable enough to do so.