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Ankle Fracture

What is an ankle fracture?

An ankle fracture is when 1 or more of the bones in your ankle break.

What causes an ankle fracture?

  • A car accident

  • A direct blow to the ankle

  • Falling on your ankle

What are the signs and symptoms of an ankle fracture?

  • You have pain, redness, and swelling.

  • Your ankle feels warm when you touch it.

  • You have trouble moving your ankle or foot.

  • You cannot put weight on your injured ankle.

  • Your foot feels weak, achy, or numb.

  • You see parts of the bone coming out of the skin.

How is an ankle fracture diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your injury and examine you. You may need any of the following tests:

  • X-ray: This is a picture of your ankle fracture. You may be given dye as a shot into your joint before the x-ray. This dye will help your joint show up better on the x-ray. A joint x-ray with dye is called an arthrogram.

  • CT scan: This is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your ankle. Healthcare providers check for a fracture and tissue damage. You may be given dye in your IV to help your healthcare providers see the images better. Tell the healthcare provider if you are allergic to dye, iodine, or seafood.

  • MRI: This scan uses powerful magnets and a computer to take pictures of your ankle. An MRI is used to look for ligament tears or other injuries. You may be given dye in your IV to help your healthcare providers see the images better. Remove all jewelry, and tell healthcare providers if you have any metal in or on your body. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell healthcare providers if you cannot lie still or are anxious or afraid of closed spaces.

How is an ankle fracture treated?

  • Support devices: You will be given a brace, cast, or splint to limit your movement and protect your ankle. You may need to use crutches to protect your ankle and decrease your pain as you move around. Do not remove your device and do not put weight on your injured ankle.

  • Medicines:

    • Pain medicine: You may be given medicine to take away or decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine.

    • Antibiotics: You may need antibiotics if you have an open wound. This medicine will help fight or prevent an infection. Take your antibiotics until they are gone, even if you feel better.

    • Td vaccine is a booster shot used to help prevent tetanus and diphtheria. The Td booster may be given to adolescents and adults every 10 years or for certain wounds and injuries.

  • Closed reduction: This is when healthcare providers put your bones back into their correct position without surgery. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about a closed reduction.

  • Open reduction: This is done when a closed reduction does not work or you have ligament damage. An incision is made and the bones and ligaments back in the correct position. This may include the use of special wires, pins, plates or screws. Ask for more information about an open reduction.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Rest: Rest your ankle so that it can heal. Return to normal activities as directed.

  • Ice: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Use an ice pack or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover the ice pack with a towel and place it on your ankle or support device for 20 minutes at least 4 times a day.

  • Elevate: Keep your injured ankle raised above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling. Elevate your ankle by resting it on pillows.

What are the risks of an ankle fracture?

  • You could get an infection or bleed too much with surgery. Even after treatment, your ankle may not go back to the way it was before, or your symptoms may not go away. A cast may cause discomfort and problems walking. You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. This can cause pain and swelling, and it can stop blood from flowing where it needs to go in your body. The blood clot can break loose and travel to your lungs or brain. This can be life-threatening.

  • Without treatment, an ankle fracture may cause problems with walking and activities, including sports. You may get an infection if you have an open wound. You may also have decreased blood supply to the injured area. This may cause the tissue to die and make amputation (removal of your foot) necessary.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.

  • You see red streaks coming from your wound.

  • Your pain does not go away, even after treatment.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.

  • You have severe pain in your ankle.

  • Your foot or toes are cold or numb.

  • Your foot or toenails turn blue or gray.

  • Your splint or cast feels too tight.

  • Your swelling has increased or returned.

  • Your leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and have shortness of breath.

  • You have chest pain or pain when you take a deep breath or cough. You cough up blood.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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