Fractures (Crack, Break, Bone Bruise)
The foot and ankle complex is made up of 26 individual bones, many of them are relatively small. When the hard shell of a bone breaks, the medical term is a fracture.
A fracture can be classed as stable (the fracture will not move its position and will heal without an operation) or unstable (the pattern of injury is likely to result in the bones moving and need an operation to stabilize them).
An added complication when bones of the foot or ankle are injured, is if there is any associated damage to the soft tissues, such as ligaments, or tendons.
There are other types of fracture that are caused by repetitive, but less significant trauma and these are referred to as ‘Stress fractures’.
‘Osteoporotic fractures’ are caused by the bone becoming weak and are most often associated with the aging process.
‘Bone bruising’ is where the internal architecture (the honeycomb center of the bone) becomes damaged. This can cause deep-seated pain, which can often take a long time to heal.
How is it caused?
What are the symptoms?
Pain, swelling, bruising, difficult/inability to weight-bearing, unusual shape of the foot or ankle, bone poking out of the skin are all signs that there may be an underlying fracture. If not treated properly, fractures can lead to arthritis and in some cases long-term disability.
If you suspect that you have a fracture, you should seek advice immediately from your GP, or if you are in significant pain go straight to your nearest A&E.
How is it diagnosed?
Your foot and ankle will be examined and may be put into half a plaster (Back-slab). In many cases, an x-ray will be taken. Some fractures are not easily seen on initial x-rays. If this is the case you may be allowed to go home or admitted to hospital until a CT and/or/ MRI Scan can be performed. A DEXA scan, may be recommended if Osteoporosis is suspected.
How is it treated?
What can I do?
In this case there are no recommended self-help strategies you can adopt and the best action is contact an orthopedic specialist as soon as possible or if you are in significant pain go straight to your nearest A&E.
Immobilisation of the Foot – Depending on the type of fracture, you may be managed in a brace, ‘moonboot’ or cast until the pain settles and the fracture starts to heal.
Internal Fixation Surgery
For bones with a significant fracture or where multiple bones have been fractured surgery will be required. During the procedure, your surgeon will insert pins or plates and screws to hold the bones in place while they heal.