Understanding the Basics Behind Foot/Ankle Fracture Management & Repair
What is Foot/Ankle Fracture Management & Repair?
Fractures in the feet are surprisingly common, and they can occur for various reasons at any time.
Whether you’re an athlete on the field or performing your daily job functions, a fracture can be a major inconvenience that’s both painful and can significantly impact your ability to do everyday activities.
The goal of fracture management is to treat the fracture through stabilization and pain control. With the help and expertise of an experienced orthopedic specialist, Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance can ensure a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. With over 140 years of combined service, we utilize the best technologies and techniques customized to each patient.
After your initial examination with a KCOA physician, we will recommend the best treatment for your needs. Our practitioners provide the comprehensive care you need so you can return to the activities you enjoy.
Other common symptoms of foot and ankle fractures include:
- Throbbing pain
- Pain that increases with activity
- Difficulty walking
- Unable to put weight on the foot
Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance Foot/Ankle Fracture Management & Repair Assessment
Assessing the Injury
Determining the proper fracture management measures starts with an assessment from one of our experienced providers.
You can think of foot and ankle pain as a spectrum, with some instances being more severe than others. The KCOA orthopedic specialists always focus on each patient and their concerns before creating a treatment plan.
Therefore, during your initial appointment, we will often ask questions such as:
- Does your pain currently limit you or your activities?
- Does walking or putting weight through your foot increase your symptoms?
- Has your pain progressed or worsened recently?
- Have you experienced any tingling or numbness in your foot that makes tasks difficult?
- Did you notice or hear a popping sound at the time of your injury?
- Have you noticed any change in your symptoms that has made it more challenging to function?
- What are your lifestyle goals?
- How has pain affected those goals?
The answers to these questions help shape the next steps of the assessment process and guide our physical examination. After a proper assessment, we often begin with a physical examination to help determine the origin point of your pain. In some cases, advanced testing may be required for a full diagnosis.
Also called radiographs, an X-ray captures a picture of the ankle, heel, or lower leg. Orthopedic physicians may order an X-ray to rule out the possibility of a fracture (broken bone), osteoarthritis, or other bone-related conditions.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
MRI captures images of muscles, bones, intervertebral discs, and tendons to help provide information other tests can’t detail. During an MRI, you will lie on a table that slides into a tube-shaped scanner. The machine creates a magnetic field around you, using pulsed radio waves to form the MRI images.
Establishing a Care Plan
Based on the results of your interview, examination, and imaging studies, you can expect a custom care plan catered specifically to you.
Many people believe it’s best to wait until pain becomes severe, leading them to “put off” or delay treatments like foot/ankle fracture repair.
If you are in constant discomfort, have shooting or stabbing pains, have limited range of motion, or an inability to perform your daily activities, fracture management treatments may be right for you.
New technologies allow patients with severe foot and ankle pain to fully recover and enjoy the benefits of a more functional, pain-free lifestyle.
Prior to surgery, you will typically receive at least 2 phone calls:
- A hospital registration representative will call to gather insurance and other personal information.
- A registered nurse will call to review your health history and medication information.
Dependent on your health history, your physician may require:
- Pre-surgical laboratory tests
- Primary care clearance
Pre-operative instructions will vary depending on your physician and the location of your surgery.
Always check with your physician before surgery for specific instructions.
Most physicians require that patients not eat or drink after midnight prior to surgery.
Additionally, you will need to designate a family member or friend to drive you home on the day you are released from the hospital. Surgical patients cannot drive themselves home.
Day of Surgery
If you schedule your surgery with a KCOA physician, you can expect the following on surgery day:
- A receptionist will check you in at the hospital registration desk.
- A nurse will take you back and prepare you for surgery. They will start an IV, prepare the surgical site, and review your medical history and medications.
- Your surgeon and anesthesiologist will visit with you prior to your operation.
- The surgical team will take you to the operation suite for surgery.
How it Works
If non-invasive and conservative treatments aren’t enough to alleviate symptoms or restore function, surgical treatment for your foot or ankle fracture may be necessary. For surgery to repair a fracture, your surgeon will focus on aligning the fractured bone fragments.
This may involve repairing them with plates, screws, surgical nails or special “fixators” to keep things stable and in place while healing occurs.
We typically use arthroscopy to make a diagnosis when X-rays and other imaging tools do not provide answers.
During an ankle or foot fracture surgery, you will remain under general anesthesia. In the case of ankle fracture surgery, our surgeons will likely use the technique of open reduction and internal fixation. This involves making an incision over the ankle to see the fractured bones.
Your surgeon will then place the pieces of broken bone together and hold them in the proper position using metal plates, screws, fixators or even a special type of cement. Stabilizing the area of fracture is a key to a successful outcome and return to function.
After your surgery, you will remain in the recovery room before being discharged. Our experienced clinical team will monitor you during this recovery and provide pain relief medication, if needed.
Your ankle and foot will likely be placed in a boot or cast to ensure that it is stable following surgery.
You should expect some swelling and possible pain in your foot or ankle for a number of days following surgery.
Because of this, it’s important to maintain elevation of your foot and ankle and use an ice pack after surgery.
What to Expect
Typically following a fracture repair you will be immobilized for a period of time and likely be instructed to not put significant weight through your foot, while the fracture is healing. You’ll gradually be able to put more weight through the leg, as directed by your providers.
The recovery timeline for fractures is based on each individual patient, the surgery that was performed and the activities you’re returning too. It’s safe to estimate at least 10-12 weeks will be necessary before your foot or ankle may feel normal.
During this recovery period, physical therapy may be ordered so that a trained expert can provide you exercises, stretches, guidance and even some motivation, as you progress towards feeling normal.
Additionally, it’s recommended that patients exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet to help aid the recovery process. This helps to alleviate stress to the joint and allows for quicker healing.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Foot & Ankle Injuries
With so many different parts working together in your feet and ankles, there are many potential causes of pain. And each of those causes has a unique set of symptoms.
Foot or ankle fractures are often painful and make it difficult to walk or perform basic daily functions. In more severe cases, it can leave patients completely immobilized. When a patient visits one of our KCOA offices, a skilled orthopedic specialist will ask you questions regarding your symptoms, what aggravates/alleviates your symptoms, and whether you have attempted prior therapies. Next comes a thorough physical exam. We will then review any images you bring with you and/or take new images. After determining the cause of your pain, we can discuss if shoulder arthroscopy will work best for your needs.
Causes of Foot & Ankle Pain
The body has different kinds of joints, and they all face different challenges. The foot and ankle combine for a complex region of the body, totaling 26 bones and 33 small joints that experience daily wear and tear. Soft tissue protects joints and bones and is made up of muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels.
With all of these different bones in your feet and ankles, a foot or ankle fracture becomes a relatively common injury. Even if you aren’t an athlete, fractures can occur during even the most mundane tasks, like stubbing your toe or dropping something on your foot. They can even happen after a simple misstep.
Fracture can range dramatically in severity, from tiny breaks that are nearly undetectable, to significant injuries causing deformity. Our specialists are trained to diagnose and catch them all.
Generally, surgery is not the first choice for treatment at Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance. If our providers can treat your ankle or foot fracture without an invasive procedure and with more conservative treatments, that’s the action we’ll take. We typically exhaust and explore all non-surgical options before recommending surgery.
Non-surgical treatments for foot, ankle or lower leg fractures include:
Physical Therapy – Exercises to promote proper healing with fractures may start after a short period of immobilization and include stretches, pool therapy, and even light strengthening. The goal is to promote healing through proper stress to increase the body’s ability to heal the fracture or lay down new bone.
Medications – Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Advil) or prescription medications. Especially with NSAIDs, you should always talk to your doctor to ensure they are the right treatment for you.
Immobilization – Immobilization involves the use of casts, braces, and walking boots to allow the affected area to heal. With immobilization, we can protect the affected area and allow the area to heal while reducing pain and swelling.
- Elevation – Elevating your injury for 2 to 3 hours per day allows for reduced swelling and bruising in the affected area. This happens by reducing blood flow to the area.
Frequently Asked Questions
Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance is here to help.
Our care is personal. Our team is knowledgeable. And we’re more available than ever.
With access to board-certified specialists across Kansas City, we have the tools to meet almost every musculoskeletal condition.
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In the process of treating my particular problem I’ve been to Apex probably 4-5 times. I’m consistently impressed by the professionalism of the staff and the amount of care & time they spend with me as a patient. They’re always very careful to make sure I understand the nature of the medical problem, the reasons for the diagnosis, and the type of treatment recommended. Stephanie’s care and concern is especially appreciated.
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Dr. Moore was thorough, kind, and allowed me to ask many questions during my visit. She took the time to answer all my questions. I would recommend her to my friends and family with certainty that they would be treated with one of the best.
My experience with Dr. Moore, at Apex Sports Medicine has been very positive. She is very competent and confident in her abilities. She is very thorough in explaining things and answers any and all questions. I am very pleased.
6 weeks post op and Dr. Brown says I’m progressing well. She’s very knowledgeable, and is very quick to answer any questions I have. She’s also very personable, we laughed a lot during my last appointment. Looking forward to seeing her again.
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The best staff. Everyone in this office are extremely friendly. I would recommend this office to anyone.