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Treating Ankle Fractures

Treatment of an ankle fracture may be surgical or non-surgical, depending on where and how badly your ankle has been broken. 

Some stable ankle fractures may be treated in a walking boot. These fractures are stable and will heal without additional treatment. You may be able to start walking on your ankle as soon as the pain improves.

Some fractures may require cast treatment.

A cast may be used to hold the broken bone in its proper position for healing. Sometimes the sections of broken bone must first be realigned. This is done by a process known as reduction. The type of reduction is based on how far the bone has moved from its normal position.

Image of ankle bones showing sites of common fractures
Sites of common ankle fractures

Closed reduction

If you have a clean break with little soft tissue damage, closed reduction will probably be used. Before the procedure, you may be given a light anesthetic to relax your muscles. Then your doctor manually readjusts the position of the broken bone.

Open reduction

If you have an open fracture (bone sticking out through the skin), badly misaligned sections of bone, or severe tissue injury, open reduction is likely. A general anesthetic may be used during the procedure to let you sleep and relax your muscles. Your doctor then makes one or more incisions to realign the bone and repair soft tissue. Screws or plates may be used to hold the bone in place during healing.

Doctor and patient

Casting the fracture

To make sure the bone is aligned properly, an X-ray is taken. Then the ankle is put in a cast to hold the bone in place during healing. You’ll probably have to wear the cast for several weeks. For less severe fractures, a walking boot, brace, or splint may be all that’s needed to hold the bone in place during healing.

The road to healing

Once your fracture has been treated, your doctor will tell you how to help it heal. You may be told to limit ankle use or weight-bearing activities, take medicines, and elevate the foot. If you have a cast, remember to keep it dry.

Online Medical Reviewer: Banerjee, Rahul, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Sather, Rita, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/9/2015
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