Your ankle joints handle an immense amount of stress with each step you take, and in the event that you suffer an ankle fracture, you want to ensure that healing goes exactly as planned so that your ankle can return to normal physical function when walking and moving. Does this mean that surgery is always in your future if you suffer an ankle fracture, or can you get by with rest and immobilization for an extended period? Below, we take a closer look at what might indicate that you need surgery to address your fractured ankle.
Will My Fractured Ankle Need Surgery?
Because the ankle can fracture in a number of different ways and each specific fracture is unique to the individual, it’s impossible to say that you’ll always need surgery or never need surgery to address your fractured ankle. That determination is made based on a few different factors:
- Stability – Arguably the most important factor that determines your treatment protocol after an ankle fracture is the current and projected stability of the ankle. Your surgeon will conduct imaging tests to look at the fracture site and determine if the bones are in a stable or unstable position. They’ll also assess how they believe the bones will fuse back together. If the bones are unstable or there is fear they will heal in an unstable manner, then surgery is almost a certainty to ensure that stability is achieved in the ankle joint.
- Healing Likelihood – Your surgeon will also assess the bone damage and determine if the bones will be able to heal back as needed if they are too dislocated or damaged to recover without surgical intervention. Oftentimes this falls in line with the above point, but stability aside, if there are multiple fractures that need to be addressed in order to heal correctly, surgery will be in your future.
- Patient Health – Sometimes stable fractures are addressed with surgery for one reason or another, but before proceeding with an operation when non-operative means may yield similar results, a doctor will take a closer look at the patient’s health. If the patient is a high-risk candidate for surgery or it’s clear that they are not healthy enough for surgery, a conservative approach may be recommended.
- Open Fractures – An open ankle fracture is one in which one of the affected bones ends up breaking through the skin. Obviously this is a very painful fracture, but it’s also something that will not heal correctly without surgery. The area will also need to be professionally addressed to reduce infection risk, so surgery is the standard procedure for open ankle fractures.
- Extent Of Damage – Finally, your doctor will also assess the damage to nearby soft tissues in the ankle area. While the bones may show signs of stability, if ligaments or tendons have been severely damaged to the point that early onset arthritis is likely without intervention, then an operation may be recommended. The location and damage of the bones play a big factor in whether or not surgery is needed, but your specialist will also assess the damage to other tissues in the ankle before making that determination.
Hopefully you never have to wonder if you’ll need ankle fracture surgery, but if you suffer a severe ankle injury and are in need of care, we hope you’ll turn to Dr. McDonald and his team. Give us a call today at (860) 244-8889.