Bone and ankle fractures (breaks) are a risk when there is a trauma, or injury. The ankle bones are commonly fractured and may need surgery to restore the anatomical alignment if they are displaced. Fractures can range from less serious avulsion injuries (small piece of bone pulled off) to severe shattering-type fractures of the bones and dislocations.
Ankle fractures are most often caused by a twisting injury of the ankle with the ankle “rolling” inwards or outwards.In addition, there are several bones in the foot which are prone to fracture as a result of “twisting” the ankle. The bones on the outside of the foot are particularly at risk and therefore the whole foot has to be examined thoroughly after what may appear to be a sprain.
There are many foot fractures which are easily missed when they occur and careful assessment is mandatory if long term consequences are to be avoided. Probably the best example of this is the “Lisfranc” injury of the midfoot. This is essentially a ligament injury but often associated with a tiny fracture not seen on conventional x-rays. A failure to detect this injury at the outset can lead to severe pain and deformity in the long term.
When a bone is broken, there is usually severe pain and the individual has great difficulty bearing weight and often can not put the foot to the ground. Sometimes, however, patients are able to bear weight or even walk with a broken ankle or foot. This is why all foot and ankle injuries should be X-rayed and ideally seen by a specialist in disorders of the foot and ankle.
As a general rule, broken bones tend to heal well. Many simple fractures do not require surgery but there are many foot and ankle injuries where surgery is necessary to enable a patient make a full recovery and avoid devastating long term consequences.
Although not always the case, most bony injuries requiring surgery are those where the broken fragments are displaced. When this is the case, the surgeon resets the bones into their original place and fixes them with screws and/or plates.