Ankle Fracture Surgery
Ankle fracture surgery is a procedure which corrects the fracture of the tibia or fibula, which are part of the ankle joint. The procedure typically attaches a plate or screws to the tibia or fibula in order to strengthen the joint and promote healing.
Is this procedure for me?
If you have fractured your ankle severely, ankle surgery may be required to allow you to fully heal. There are several different types of ankle fracture surgery, which we will outline below.
There are several types of fracture which can require ankle fracture surgery, including; an isolated medial malleolus fracture, isolated lateral malleolus fracture, medial and lateral fracture, functional bimalleolar fracture, posterior malleolar fracture, open ankle fracture, associated syndesmotic injury, and diabetic ankle fractures.
At the beginning of the procedure, the patient will be positioned so that the ankle is visible and accessible to the surgeon. Then the agreed mode of anaesthetic is usually applied, and the area of focus is cleaned and sterilised. Once the anaesthetic has taken effect, it is time for the procedure to begin.
The location of the incision will depend on the nature of the ankle fracture. For cases in which the fibula is fractured, an incision will be made on the outside of the ankle, offering the easiest route of access to the surgeon. The first part of the procedure can focus on the removal of small bone fragments which are present due to the fracture. The fibula can then be repaired with a fixation plate which is placed over the fibula, before the plate is held in place using surgical screws.
Procedures to repair the tibia start with an incision on the inside of the ankle, to allow easy access. If there are small bone fragments present, these will be removed, before the insertion of surgical screws into the bone. A fixation plate can also be required in the case of severe fractures.
At the end of the procedure, the incision will be closed with surgical staples or sutures. The ankle will then be bandaged before being placed in a splint. Following this period of recovery, you will usually need to wear a boot or cast. In general, you will need to avoid putting your weight on the affected ankle for anything from 2-6 weeks following the ankle fracture surgery procedure depending on your type of fracture and how strong your bone is. You will gradually begin to put more weight on the ankle as your recovery progresses. Resting and elevating your ankle will help with pain and swelling during your recovery.
You will normally be given a physical therapy programme with exercises designed to strengthen the ankle and improve its range of movement. Follow-up appointments involving an x-ray are scheduled to ensure your progress is on track.
Risks and complications
As with any type of surgery, ankle fracture surgery does present a small risk of complications, such as; bleeding, infection, nerve damage and skin issues, as well as ankle stiffness and weakness following the procedure.
As with all foot surgery, it is common for minor discomfort and swelling to persist for some months after surgery and is completely normal. This swelling will eventually completely subside with time and can take up to 12 months but often goes well before this.