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Ankle Dislocation


What is an ankle dislocation?

An ankle dislocation happens when the bones in your ankle joint move out of place. You may also have an ankle fracture (break in the bone). An ankle dislocation and fracture may need surgery.

Dislocated Ankle

What are the signs and symptoms of an ankle dislocation?

  • Pain and swelling in your ankle
  • Numbness or weakness in your ankle
  • Pale or cold skin or a bruise over the ankle
  • Not being able to move or stand on your ankle
  • A change in the shape of your ankle

How is an ankle dislocation diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider may ask you to move your ankle or leg, or flex your toes. X-ray, MRI, CT, or ultrasound pictures may show a dislocation or other injury. You may be given contrast liquid to help your ankle show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is an ankle dislocation treated?

  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • A procedure may be used to move your ankle bones back into place. This is done by moving your knee and ankle in different positions until your bones line up properly. The procedure is sometimes done during surgery.
  • Surgery may be done to repair damaged nerves, ligaments, and blood vessels. It may also be done to move your ankle bones back into place. You may need surgery right away after the dislocation or after other injuries are treated.

How can I manage an ankle dislocation?

You will have to wait until you heal to return to your usual activity level. The following can help you manage your symptoms and prevent more injury while you heal:

  • Rest your ankle. You will need to rest your ankle for 6 weeks after your injury. Do not put pressure on your ankle for long periods of time. This will help keep your ankle safe from more damage, and help it heal faster. Ask your healthcare provider when you may return to your normal daily activities. Movement and activity are helpful for healing. After 6 weeks, practice walking as directed.
  • Apply ice to your ankle. Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it to your ankle. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Elevate your ankle. Elevate your ankle above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your ankle on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.
    Elevate Leg
  • Compress your ankle. You may need to use an elastic bandage to compress (put pressure on) your ankle to help decrease swelling. Compression also helps support your ankle and allows it to heal. Wear your ankle wrap for as long as directed. You may also need a brace, short leg cast, or splint to help protect your ankle. A splint is a type of brace that keeps your ankle stable. Ask how to care for your brace, cast, or splint.
    How to Wrap an Elastic Bandage
  • Use crutches, if directed. You may need crutches to help you walk while your ankle heals. Crutches help you keep your weight off your ankle, and help prevent more ankle damage.
    Walking with Crutches
  • Go to physical therapy, if directed. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to increase the range of motion in your ankle. Exercises make your ankle stronger, increase balance, and decrease pain. You may be told to continue the exercises after physical therapy ends to help prevent another dislocation.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • The skin around your ankle feels hot, tight, or is shiny or pale.
  • Your cast or splint feels too tight.
  • Your ankle, foot, or toes feel numb.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have trouble walking, or more swelling, pain, or stiffness in your ankle, even after you take your medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

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 healthcare providers 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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Further information

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