A fracture is a partial or complete break in a bone caused by disease or trauma. However not all fractures are the result of trauma. Stress fractures are a subtle type of injury caused by overuse or repetitive stress and may further develop into an acute injury if left untreated.
Fractures can range from avulsion injuries (small pieces of bone that have been pulled off) to severe shattering-type breaks of the bone. Because of the unique, integrated structure and function of the ankle injuries to this area can be multi-dimensional. Ankle fractures are most often caused by the ankle rolling inward or outward.
Many people mistake a fracture for a sprainbut they are quite different and therefore require an accurate and early diagnosis. Both can occur simultaneously.
Signs and Symptoms of a Fracture A fracture is accompanied by one or all of these signs and symptoms:
Pain at the site of the fracture, which in some cases can extend from the foot to the knee.
Significant swelling, which may occur along the length of the leg or may be more localized.
Blisters may occur over the fracture site. These should be promptly treated.
Bruising (contusion) - blood from broken blood vessels accumulates in the surrounding tissue producing swelling, pain and tenderness - which develops soon after the injury.
Inability to walk?however, it is possible to walk with less severe breaks, so never rely on walking as a test of whether a bone has been fractured.
Change in the appearance of the foot/ankle so that it differs from the other foot/ankle.
Bone protruding through the skin?a sign that immediate care is needed! Fractures that pierce the skin require urgent attention because they can lead to severe infection and prolonged recovery.
Broken bones, dislocations, sprains and contusions are among the most frequently treated problems in our office. Too often patients wait until several days after an injury before seeking medical attention. Delayed treatment may compromise healing.
Here are some common misconceptions about foot and ankle injuries.
1. "It can't be broken because I can move it" - Often you can walk with certain types of fractures.
2. "There's nothing you can do for a broken toe" - Neglecting to seek care may result in improper or incorrect healing. A post fracture deformity may result which can create chronic problems. Prompt treatment and proper alignment of the fractured site is necessary to prevent further problems.
3. "A fracture is a lesser injury than a break" - Actually they mean the same and are identical. Both words are used to describe broken bones.
Consequences of Improper Treatment Some people say that "the doctor can't do anything for a broken bone in the foot." This is usually not true. In fact, if a fractured toe or metatarsal bone is not treated correctly, serious complications may develop. For example:
A deformity in the bony architecture which may limit the ability to move the foot or cause difficulty in fitting shoes.
Arthritis, which may be caused by a fracture in a joint (the juncture where two bones meet), or may be a result of angular deformities that develop when a displaced fracture is severe or hasn't been properly corrected.
Chronic pain and long-term dysfunction.
Non-union, or failure to heal, can lead to subsequent surgery or chronic pain.