How is a Broken Ankle Diagnosed?
An orthopedic specialist performs a physical examination first. The doctor may order tests to confirm a broken ankle diagnosis and evaluate the injury level.
Tests to examine fracture can include:
- Physical examination includes assessing:
- Damage to blood vessels near the ankle
- Nerve damage near the ankle
- Level of pain and range of motion
- X-ray can show the exact fracture location and provide information to help the doctor plan the treatment
- CT (Computed Tomography) scan and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) for large fractures or injuries that involve ligaments
How is a Broken Ankle Treated?
Treatment for ankle fractures depends on the severity of the fracture and may be nonsurgical or surgical.
For a simple break in one bone that is stable, the doctor may recommend:
- Using a walking boot or cast and possibly crutches
- Resting the ankle
- Elevating the ankle
- Icing the injury area every couple of hours for a few minutes each time
- Taking pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen to decrease pain and inflammation.
Surgery may be necessary for serious fractures if the bones are misaligned. It is also useful for open fractures (also known as compound fractures) when fractured bones break through the skin.
In ankle fracture surgery, the surgeon moves bone pieces to their normal position and holds them together with special screws and metal plates. There are many new technologies in fracture fixation, and our surgeons have all the latest tools and techniques.
Recovery and rehabilitation
Healing time for ankle fractures depends on the type of injury. Recovery from ankle fractures commonly takes six weeks, but it may take longer for injuries involving both ligament and bone.
Medication is first given intravenously (also called IV). After several hours patients may start taking oral pain medication. The doctor decides which pain medication should be taken to manage the pain and for how long to minimize the risk associated with taking opioids.
Physical therapy is an important part of fractured ankle treatment. It begins after the fractures have started to heal and the walking boot or cast has been removed. Putting weight on the injured ankle too early may prevent the ankle from healing properly. The doctor may provide a specific recommendation about returning to athletic activity.
A broken ankle is typically swollen, bruised, and may be twisted.
Recovery time for a broken ankle depends on the type and severity of the fractures. It may take around six weeks, but it may take longer for broken ankles with ligaments and tendons injuries. In some cases, full recovery takes a few months.
A broken ankle causes severe pain, numbness, and difficulty standing and walking.
Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Broken Ankle Treatment
Orthopedics specialists at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia Orthopedics revaluate and treat every type of foot and ankle condition, from common foot issues to complex trauma and sports injuries that require advanced surgery.
Learn about the foot and ankle conditions we treat, and contact us to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic specialist.