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Ankle fracture surgery

3-minute read

This page will give you information about ankle fracture surgery. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is an ankle fracture?

An ankle fracture is a break of one of or both your ankle bones.

An ankle fracture is usually caused by a twisting injury to your ankle, resulting from sports or a simple fall or trip. There may be a break of the bone on the outer side of your ankle (fibula), the inner side (tibia), or both sides.

There may also be damage to your ankle ligaments.

What are the benefits of surgery?

Your bones should heal in a good position. If the bones heal in an incorrect position, you are more likely to get stiffness and arthritis in the future.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

If your ankle bones are in a good position, it may be possible to treat the fracture using a cast or a walker boot.

Illustration showing fractures of both ankle bones.
Fractures of both ankle bones.

What does the operation involve?

Various anaesthetic techniques are possible.

The operation usually takes 30 minutes to an hour. Your surgeon will make one or more cuts to expose the broken bones on the inner and outer sides of your ankle. They will usually fix the fractures using screws and a plate, although sometimes they need to use other devices.

What complications can happen?

Some of these can be serious and can even cause death.

General complications of any operation

  • pain
  • unsightly scarring of your skin
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • blood clot in your leg
  • blood clot in your lung
  • difficulty passing urine

Specific complications of this operation

  • damage to nerves
  • severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of your foot and ankle
  • loosening or breaking of the plate and screws
  • infection in the bone
  • delayed union, where the fracture does not heal in a normal period of time

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home after 1 to 2 days.

Spend most of the time during the first 2 weeks with your leg raised on pillows or a footstool so that the swelling settles.

Your ankle may be kept in a cast until the bones have healed, which usually takes about 6 weeks.

It can take several months before you are able to return to all your normal activities.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Most people make a good recovery and get back good function.

However, your ankle may never be as strong as it was before the injury.

Summary

For some types of ankle fracture, an operation is the best way to make sure your ankle bones heal in a good position.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION
The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2019


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