What Is It?

Surgery to repair fractures near the ankle joint aims to reposition the broken portion of bone back where it belongs, and keep it from shifting out of place until it has time to heal properly.

Your ankle joint forms at the meeting place of three different bones. The tibia and fibula make up your shin and lower leg, and rest on a small bone called the talus, which separates and cushions the shinbones from your heel. Several ligaments and other fibrous tissue surround the ends of these bones and work to hold them in place.

Why Is It Done?

The ankle joint can become injured in a variety of different ways. Awkward twisting, rotating or rolling of the ankle joint can lead to severe sprains or even fractures. The ankle sprains when only the ligaments connecting the bones give away and tear. Fractures occur when high levels of stress force the bone itself to give away and break. Fractures can also occur due to the force of high-level impact, experienced in certain falls and car accidents. Breaks can occur in either the tibia or fibula, or both, and most commonly occur at the far end of the bone nearest to the ankle joint.

Upon breaking an ankle, patients will quickly experience severe pain, tenderness, swelling, bruising, weakness and sometimes mild deformity. Severe ankle sprains can feel similar to ankle fractures and should always undergo thorough examination by a doctor to confirm the diagnosis. Along with a physical examination, your doctor will discuss medical history and likely conduct a variety of different imaging tests before treatment.

How Is It Done?

With three relatively small bones operating so close together, several different types of fractures can occur. Ankle fractures are classified by severity, position, orientation, etc. Surgical procedures to repair these fractures differ slightly depending on the credentials of each individual break, but the overall process remains fairly consistent. During the procedure, your surgeon will make an incision near the ankle joint which provides access to the broken portion of bone. Bone fragments are repositioned into their original alignment and held in place to heal through the use of metal screws and plates. In cases where the fracture has not been significantly forced out of place, non-surgical treatment options are initially utilized, and are often successful. In this instance, your doctor will apply a short leg cast and ask that your avoid putting weight on your leg for several weeks.

With such a wide range of ankle injuries and treatment options, the way individuals respond to surgery varies from patient to patient. In most cases, broken bones heal in 6 weeks, while any damaged ligaments surrounding the joint typically take a bit longer. Exercise and physical therapy helps build strength and encourage mobility within the ankle, and can help expedite the healing process when practiced properly. Most patients comfortably return to everyday activities within 3 to 4-months.