A fractured ankle occurs when one or more of the bones that form the ankle joint are fractured. The ankle joint is formed by three bones of the leg. The tibia, the largest of the three bones, forms the roof and inner aspects of the ankle. Part of the tibia that forms the medial side of the ankle joint is called the medial malleolus. The fibula, or smaller leg bone, forms the lateral portion of the ankle joint. The expansion at the base of the fibula, which forms the lateral side of the ankle joint, is called the lateral malleolus. When both the lateral and medial malleolus are broken this injury is referred to as a bimalleolar fracture. A trimalleolar fracture involves the medial malleolus, lateral malleolus and the posterior tibia.
An ankle fracture results from trauma, such as a direct blow or twisting force to the ankle.
Patients may complain of pain, swelling, bruising or immediate loss of motion. Often the patient feels a pop or snap. If the fracture fragments are severely displaced, a deformity may be present.
The surgeon will examine the ankle and obtain X-rays to evaluate the fracture. Some fractures, however, can only be detected on further imaging.
Fractures of the ankle that are non-displaced can be treated non-operatively. A cast is applied to the ankle for six weeks or more and the patient is instructed to remain non-weight bearing during most or all of that time.
Fractures of the ankle that are displaced require surgical intervention. Postoperatively, a cast may be applied and the patient will be non-weight bearing for a period of time.