Ankle Fracture

Know More: Ankle Fractures

Trustworthy information, straight from the source. Education is the first step in an empowering healthcare plan. Learn more about ankle fractures, from prevention to diagnosis and treatment.


Condition Overview

What is an ankle fracture?

An ankle fracture is a break in 1 or more of the bones in your ankle.

What causes an ankle fracture?

There are many causes of ankle fractures, some common causes include:

  • A car accident
  • A direct blow to the ankle
  • Falling on your ankle or twisting your ankle

Diagnosis & Treatment Options

What are the signs and symptoms of an ankle fracture?

  • Sudden, severe pain
  • Bruising on your ankle
  • Tenderness, redness, and swelling in your ankle
  • Trouble moving or putting weight on your ankle or foot
  • Weakness or numbness in your ankle
  • Deformed ankle shape

How is an ankle fracture diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your injury and examine you. An x-ray, ultrasound, CT, or MRI may show a fracture, tissue damage, or other injuries. You may be given contrast liquid to help the fracture show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is an ankle fracture treated?

  • Support devices, such as a brace, cast, or splint, or may be needed. These help to limit your movement and protect your ankle. You may need to use crutches to protect your ankle and decrease your pain as you move around. Do not remove your device and do not put weight on your injured ankle.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor’s order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor’s order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your how to take this medicine safely.
  • Closed reduction may be done to put your bones back into their correct position without surgery.
  • Open reduction surgery is done when a closed reduction does not work or you have ligament damage. An incision is made and the bones and ligaments are put back in the correct position. This may include the use of special wires, pins, plates or screws.

Preparing for Care

How can you manage your ankle fracture symptoms?

  • Rest your ankle so that it can heal. Return to normal activities as directed.
  • Apply ice on your ankle for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Elevate your ankle above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your ankle on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your cast feels too tight.
  • Your leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • You have severe pain in your ankle.
  • Your foot or toes are cold or numb.
  • Your foot or toenails turn blue or gray.

When should you contact your healthcare provider?

  • Your splint feels too tight.
  • Your swelling has increased or returned.
  • You have a fever.
  • Your pain does not go away, even after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.