Ankle/Foot Sprains & Fractures
What Is an Ankle/Foot Sprain or Fracture?
A sprain is an injury to a ligament (the tissue that connects bone-to-bone to keep the joint in proper position). Ankle sprains are very common injuries. Ligament sprains often happen when walking on uneven surfaces or while playing sports. “Rolling” an ankle can cause damage to one or more ligaments resulting in severe pain, bruising, and swelling of the foot and ankle. Once the ligaments are torn, the stability of the foot and ankle may become compromised, which increases the likelihood of further injury. In severe sprains, the ligament may rupture forcefully enough to detach a piece of bone along with it. This is called an avulsion fracture/chip fracture.
A foot or ankle fracture occurs when the bone is broken from an injury, causing pain and swelling. People with osteoporosis (bone density thins over time with age) are especially vulnerable to fractures. The trauma can cause fragments of the bone to shift or even shatter. Despite treatment options, fractures may form “nonunions.” Nonunions are a condition that results from broken bones that do not heal properly. There must be adequate support and blood supply to promote healing.
A foot or ankle fracture may be treated using a cast or orthotic and/or receiving treatments using a small external device that delivers ultrasonic or electromagnetic waves, called a bone stimulator, to stimulate healing. Our skilled orthopaedic surgeons can help you determine the right approach for you.
Depending on the severity and location of the injury, ankle and foot ligaments may respond well to nonsurgical treatments such as resting, icing, compression by wearing a brace or taping, taking anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, and/or cortisone injections. While nonsurgical treatment can relieve mild cases of the condition, surgery may be necessary if it continues to worsen.
Internal and/or External Fixation(s) & Bone Grafts
If surgery is needed, the ligaments may be sutured back together or plates and screws may be used to help keep the bone properly aligned as it heals. As the ligaments and fractures heal, blood typically begins to circulate through the injury to improve the healing process. When blood supply is lost, specialized procedures that restore blood flow may need to be done. Bone grafting and vascularized bone grafts may be necessary to treat nonunions if they occur.