Fractures of the Foot & Ankle
Broken bones (Fractures) are a common disorder of the foot and ankle. Fractures usually happen as a result of a high-energy injury, but can sometimes happen without injury, as a result of repetitive stress. Pain and swelling are the most common symptoms after a fracture. Evaluation of fractures is generally centered around the history and x-ray examination. Understanding the situation of how the injury happens is valuable in diagnosing a fracture. X-rays are a safe, relatively inexpensive, tool to help confirm the fracture diagnosis. Physical exam is also helpful, but there is usually very little need to poke and prod a painful area that shows a fracture on x-ray. We always maintain awareness that you are a person, not just a hurt foot, and we make every effort to make the examination as comfortable as possible.
Stress Fractures are a different kind of fracture that happen without a major injury. Repetitive stress in a particular bone can cause the bone to weaken, eventually forming a "hairline" fracture. The difficulty with diagnosing stress fractures, is they do not always show on basic x-ray examination. Sometimes, the fracture does not become apparent for 2-3 weeks after the fracture occurs.
Fracture healing usually takes 4-6 weeks. During this period of time, the foot is protected with either a fiberglass cast, removable fracture boot, or surgical shoe. The tenants of PRICE are important to reducing pain and increasing healing. Anti-inflammatory and narcotic pain medications are also useful during the healing phase.
How Do I Know If Surgery Is Necessary?
The need for surgery is based off two criteria: Location and Severity.
Certain fractures, such as a Jones Fracture of the 5th metatarsal, are known to have difficulty healing because of the location and surrounding anatomy. Surgery will often help shorten the recovery time. Also, fractures that occur around a joint have a higher probability of needing surgery.
Severity of the injury usually plays the biggest role in the decision making process. If a fracture has occurred, but the bones maintain relatively good alignment ("Non-Displaced"), surgery may not be necessary. However, if the bone is broken and has poor alignment ("Displaced or Dislocated"), surgery is necessary in order to restore native anatomy and function to the injured area.
Examples of High Energy Injuries:
- Crush Injury
- High Distance Fall
- Motor Vehicle Accident
- Twisting Injury ("Ankle Sprain")
Fractures that require surgery generally heal as fast, if not more quickly, that similar fractures treated without surgery. Thorough consultation with a foot and ankle specialist is the best way to determine which treatment option is best for you.
If you have injured your foot or ankle, and are concerned about the possibility of a fracture, Call us at 512-593-2949 or CLICK HERE to Schedule an Appointment.