Foot and ankle injuries can be very complicated to treat. You need an experienced orthopedic specialist to care for you as soon as you suffer a trauma to make sure you bones align properly and you regain maximum function as you recover, especially if you need surgery.
An ankle sprain tears the outer supportive ligaments of the ankle and can range from minor to so severe that the ligaments are torn completely, resulting in the ankle feeling loose. If a person frequently sprains an ankle, the ankle ligaments may be weakened to the point that a chronic instability results in frequent ankle sprains.
This in turn can lead to other ankle problems, including bruised cartilage between the heel and the shin or bone spurs around the ankle. Eventually, these problems can lead to arthritis.
The ankle is made up of three bones, and the foot comprises 26 bones. Fractures can occur in any of these bones and are usually due to trauma such as a fall, blow, or severe twist. Symptoms can include:
- Immediate and severe pain
- Bruising and tenderness
- Decreased range of motion
- Difficulty walking or putting weight on the injured foot/ankle
- Lump or visible deformity
Because a severe sprain can often mask the symptoms of a fracture, every injury to the foot and ankle should be examined by a physician.
Treatment for a broken foot or ankle usually depends on how severe your injury is. Our orthopedists will examine your injury carefully and monitor your healing process. We will recommend any combination of non-surgical and surgical treatment options, followed by physical therapy to rebuild strength and ease of movement in the foot or ankle.
- Splints and Casts – If your bones are broken but have not shifted, we will likely recommend that you wear a splint and/or cast to keep your bones in the right position as they heal. Your orthopedist will monitor your condition closely, and may repeat imaging tests to assess your progress.
- Surgery – If your injury caused your bones to shift out of place, you may need surgery to restore the proper alignment.
Open reduction internal fixation (ORIF)
Sometimes a severe ankle fracture must be realigned, which is called reduction. The type of reduction depends on how severely the bone is broken or how far it has moved from normal positioning. An open reduction means that surgery is needed to realign the bones and move them back into normal position.
Titanium screws, nails, or plates will be placed to allow the bones to heal together in proper alignment. A tibial bone graft may be taken from your knee area, to be used in conjunction with the screws, nails, or plates. In general, patients undergoing an ORIF are admitted to the hospital for one or two days following surgery.