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Will My Foot Fracture Need Surgery?

There are 26 bones in each foot, and if one or more of these bones is overloaded with repetitive or acute stress, it can result in a fracture. A foot fracture can make each step uncomfortable and make getting around a challenge, but oftentimes a minor fracture will heal just fine on its own without surgical intervention. With that said, different types of foot fractures will require an operation to ensure that healing progresses as necessary.

So what are the signs or fracture patterns that suggest you will need surgery on your foot? We explain why your foot fracture may require surgery in today’s blog.

Do I Need Surgery On My Broken Foot?

If you get stepped on during a soccer game or fall off a ladder onto the ground, it may be apparent that you suffered an injury to your foot, but it may not be obvious that a fracture has occurred. Some symptoms that may present in the wake of a foot fracture include:

  • Pain
  • Pain when putting pressure on the area
  • Difficult walking or an inability to walk normally
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising/Discoloration

These symptoms can also be present following direct trauma or a significant ankle sprain, so if you truly want to understand what’s going on in your foot, your best bet is to head to an urgent care department or set up an appointment with a foot specialist like Dr. McDonald. They’ll begin by talking with you about how the injury occurred, and they’ll conduct a physical assessment that may involve attempting to walk or place pressure on the foot. Odds are they’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s going on in your foot after this assessment, but to confirm their suspicions, they’ll typically order an X-ray or similar imaging test. An x-ray can help to confirm or rule out a fracture and chart a course for recovery.

So while most standard foot fractures will heal on their own over time if the area is protected from additional stress, there are some things that may be seen during the assessment or the imaging test that may suggest that surgery is the best route. Here’s a look at some of the reasons why you may need surgery to correct your foot fracture.

  • Compound Fracture – Arguably the most obvious sign that surgery will be in your future is if you suffer a compound foot fracture. This occurs when part of the bone breaks through the skin, and surgery to reset the bone and reduce infection likelihood is a must.
  • Multiple Fractures – If a bone is broken in one single location, oftentimes the body can mend that break on its own without intervention. However, if there are multiple fractures in your foot, the area may be unstable and unlikely to heal correctly without hardware holding the bones in the right location. Multiple fractures or unstable fracture patterns typically require surgery to ensure adequate healing.
  • Jones Fracture – A Jones fracture involves a break in the fifth metatarsal bone in your pinky toe. This area has very limited blood supply, so conservative care practices don’t always result in bone union. If you don’t experience adequate healing through conservative means or your doctor doesn’t believe that the area will get enough healthy blood to heal, they may surgically address the fracture site.
  • Joint Disruption – If the fractured bone enters or damages a joint or key joint surfaces, a surgical procedure may help to stabilize the fracture site and restore natural joint alignment. Unaddressed joint damage can lead to early onset arthritis, so doctors will be looking to see if the fracture also involved damage to key joints in the foot.
  • Failed Healing – Even though many fractures heal well without surgery, sometimes conservative treatments don’t do the trick. If you’re still dealing with lingering discomfort or pain after weeks of conservative treatments, you may want to talk with your doctor about the possibility of a corrective procedure.

Dr. McDonald and his team would be more than happy to provide a comprehensive diagnosis, lay out all your treatment options and figure out the right path forward for you after a foot fracture. For more information, or to set up an appointment with his office, give Dr. McDonald a call today at (860) 244-8889.

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