What is ankle fracture surgery?

Because the ankle is heavily used, and holds a lot of the body’s weight, it is a common bone to break. Anything from severe accidents, such as falls, to minor trips or ankle twists can lead to an ankle fracture.

Many ankle fractures can be treated in a boot or cast and using crotches for several weeks. some fractures are considered stable and people can be treated in a boot and allowed to bear weight .If the ankle fracture is severe enough, it may require surgery to fully heal. Doctors may recommend different types of ankle surgeries, depending on how the ankle has been injured:

  • Open reduction is a surgery that opens the ankle and repositions bones so that they line up correctly
  • Internal fixation is a placing plates, rods, wires, and/or screws into the fractured ankle to hold it in its original position.

No matter the type of ankle surgery, the main goal is rebuild and support the ankle so that it can heal in an appropriate position. The joint needs to be realigned as well as possible to decrease the likelihood of stiffness and or arthritis forming because of injury to the joint.

After surgical treatment of ankle fractures, it is not uncommon to be required to be non weight bearing on that ankle for six to 8 weeks. Once the ankle fully heals, post-surgery treatment, such as physical therapy, can help strengthen the ankle and return-to-normal movement. 

What are the benefits?

Ankle fracture surgery can help an ankle heal in an appropriate position and decrease the risk of developing post traumatic arthritis.

What are the risks/side effects?

As with any surgery, there can be risks with:

  • The type of anesthesia used
  • Skin problems
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Nerve/blood vessel damage

Other risks and problems more specific to ankle fracture surgery might include:

  • Ankle joint weakness
  • Ankle joint stiffness
  • Arthritis
  • The fracture not healing correctly and having to repeat the surgery
  • People with certain diseases (such as diabetes) or who have certain habits (such as smoking) may take a longer time to heal and may have an increased chance of infection.

Talk to your doctor to understand the risks of your procedure and how likely complications may be.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I prepare?

You may have a series of doctor visits prior to your surgery. During these visits, a doctor will perform a physical exam, ask you about your family history, and take some x-rays. Your doctor may give you a boot or splint to wear while you wait to have surgery.

Before surgery, tell your doctor about all the medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter medicines, supplements, inhalers, liquid medicines, and patches. Also, let your doctor know the last time you ate or drank anything, and follow your doctor’s orders about when to stop eating or drinking before surgery.

You can also prepare for your surgery by talking about how your lifestyle may be affected. For example, your ankle surgery could affect your ability to drive, so you may need to arrange to have rides to work or other places you go regularly. You will also need to rest your ankle after surgery, so you will want to have a comfortable place where you can elevate your foot and rest.

You may want to also work out a plan with friends or family members to help with pets, children, or household duties to help you while you recover.

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