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External Fixation of an Ankle Fracture


  • External (eks-TER-nal) fixation (fik-SA-shun) of an ankle fracture is surgery to repair your broken ankle. An ankle fracture is a break in any of the bones of your ankle. The ankle joint is made up of the tibia, fibula, and talus bones. The tibia and fibula are the two bones in your lower leg. The talus is a square, flat bone on top of the calcaneus (heel bone). The ankle joint lets you move your foot in different directions. External fixation is done when fractured bones are not in their normal positions or are broken into several pieces. It is also done when bones stick out through skin, or when deep cuts reach down to the bones.
  • With external fixation, pins and devices sticking out of the ankle will hold together broken pieces of bone inside it. While being held together, the pieces of broken bone will grow together and get stronger. This may bring back your ankle's usual appearance and your leg's usual length. Physical activities may need to be avoided for some time until your bone heals completely. It may take months to get full function of your leg, ankle, and foot after this surgery. With external fixation, your ankle fracture may be treated and usual activities may be resumed.


Take your medicine as directed.

Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.
  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

Ask your caregiver when you need to return to have your wound checked and the stitches or pins removed. You may have to use crutches for some time to let the affected ankle heal better. Your caregiver may teach you how to use crutches.

Caring for the pin sites:

The pin sites are the areas of skin where the pins were inserted. There is a chance that these areas may get infected. To prevent infection, you may do the following:

  • Check the skin around the pins every day.
  • Clean the skin around the pins with hydrogen peroxide and a sterile (clean) solution. Do this twice a day. Your caregiver will tell you when to stop using peroxide.
  • Ask your caregiver when it is OK to get the pin sites wet while bathing

Physical therapy:

You may need to see a physical therapist to teach you special exercises. These exercises help improve movement and decrease pain. Physical therapy can also help improve strength and decrease your risk for loss of function.

Your physical therapist may teach you special exercises to do at home. These may be done alone or with the help of a family member. Do only the exercises advised by your caregiver and do them only as often as your caregiver suggests. Do not do more than the range of motion exercises advised by your caregiver.


  • You have a fever.
  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition, surgery, or medicine.


  • You have increased pain or swelling in your ankle area that does not go away.
  • Your leg, ankle, or foot is swollen and feels tight.
  • Your skin or toes on the injured ankle turn blue or white or they feel cold, numb, or tingly.

Learn more about External Fixation of an Ankle Fracture (Aftercare Instructions)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.