The ankle joint is made up of 3 bones: the tibia, fibula, and talus. These bones can become damaged or fractured due to injury caused by motor vehicle accidents, falls, or during certain sports. Certain medical conditions such as osteoporosis can also weaken the bones, making ankle fractures more likely. Ankle fracture fixation can effectively repair multiple fractures or a single bone break.
Ankle fractures can cause severe pain, swelling, and the inability to rotate and move the joint. A minor fracture can often heal on its own without causing too much discomfort. However, major fractures or several fractured bones in the ankle can cause severe pain and will require ankle fracture fixation surgery. A major fracture can also cause the bones to move out of place, which will also be addressed during this procedure.
How does ankle fracture fixation work?
During an ankle fracture fixation procedure, an orthopaedic surgeon will reconnect the broken bones using special screws, rods, plates, or wires. This allows the bones to heal correctly so that the ankle can function properly again.
If the bone has fractured to the point that it is sticking out of the skin, open reduction surgery may also be required to move the bones back to its normal position. Otherwise, closed reduction will be done to move the bones back into its correct place without exposing the bone.
You will not feel any pain during the procedure as you will be placed under general anaesthesia. It can take approximately 2-3 hours, depending on the severity of the injury and how many bones have been fractured.
Benefits of ankle fracture fixation
Treats and fixes ankle fractures
Stabilises the joint
Relieves pain, stiffness, and discomfort
What conditions does ankle fracture fixation treat?
Ankle fracture fixation can be used to treat the following conditions:
Ankle fractures/broken bones
What results can I expect?
After an ankle fracture fixation procedure, you can expect pain, numbness, and swelling for the first few weeks. You will be advised not to put pressure on the joint until it has healed completely, and should ice and elevate your ankle as much as possible. Painkillers may be prescribed for the first few days to alleviate symptoms and aid healing.
You can also expect to attend physiotherapy sessions and follow-up appointments with your orthopaedist for the first few weeks or months to regain flexibility and strength in your ankle. The exact results of the surgery will also depend on how severe the injury was and how many bones were broken.
Results will vary from person to person, depending on the treatment area, severity of the issue, and your overall health. Your orthopaedist can give you a better idea of what to expect based on your individual needs and circumstances.
How many treatment sessions are needed?
Ankle fracture fixation procedures are usually done in a single procedure. However, you will likely be required to attend physiotherapy sessions afterwards. The exact duration depends on the complexity of your injury, medical history, and age.
Your orthopaedic surgeon will be able to provide you with a bespoke treatment plan, tailored to your needs and requirements.
Dr Puah KL is our Senior Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Artisan Sports & Orthopaedic Surgery. He used to serve the sports service of Singapore General Hospital - the highest volume trauma centre for orthopaedics in Singapore.