Ankle Injuries and Dislocation: Do You Need Surgery?
Among the many forms of ankle injuries, ankle dislocation is a common condition in which the ankle bone (also called the talus bone) is displaced from its normal position by a severe injury or force, and is often associated with a bone fracture. Ligaments in the ankle connect the lower limb bones – the tibia and fibula – to the talus bone, holding them all in place to provide comfortable foot movements. In the case of a dislocation, the surrounding structures (ligaments, tendons, cartilage and bones) are damaged. The talus moves abnormally relative to the tibia and fibula. The nerve and blood supply in that region is also affected. This may be permanent.
Diagnosing Ankle Injuries
Sports like football, hockey and basketball frequently cause ankle subluxation and dislocation. A subluxation is a milder form of this injury. The patient will develop severe pain at the site of the dislocation, which radiates to the lower leg and calf region. A decreased blood supply may cause the ankle region to turn blue or white, and swelling and tenderness will develop. The patient will have difficulty bearing weight on the foot, and numbness may develop in the ankle. Bleeding from damaged tissue may cause one or all of these symptoms.
An X-ray of the ankle is commonly used to confirm the diagnosis. Occasionally, a CT scan or MRI of the ankle is done to rule out complications associated with the problems.
Treating Ankle Injuries
Typically, the patient is advised to rest, and to apply ice, while an elastic bandage is wrapped around the ankle to reduce the swelling. The patient is also advised to elevate the foot above heart level to help decrease the pain and swelling. It is important that a professional evaluate the radiographs. If the ankle is subluxed or dislocated it should be put back into place.
While a cast, or splint, may be recommended to minimize movement of the injured region, a dislocated ankle cannot heal itself in a cast and surgical help is often required once the swelling subsides. Typically a 3-4 hour surgery, the procedure includes realigning the dislocated bones in their proper place and then fixing the broken bone fragments with the help of screws, pins or plates. Often the torn ligaments and tendons are repaired with suture.
Post surgery, splint is applied to reduce ankle movement, and painkillers are prescribed. Crutches are recommended to avoid exerting weight on the ankle for up to 8 weeks after surgery, and physical therapy is often prescribed. Most patients start using a boot around week 4. While the boot can be removed after 8 weeks, complete healing typically takes 4-6 months. Physical therapy is important for these types of injuries.
(Image courtesy of satit_srihin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Ankle Injuries: Is My Ankle Dislocated? For an assessment of your ankle injury, and advice about treatment and healing, contact Warner Orthopedics and Wellness at 225-754-8888 or contact us here.
Dr. Meredith Warner is a board certified, Fellowship Trained Foot and Ankle, Orthopedic surgeon practicing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Dr. Warner is committed to offering her patients an accurate diagnosis along with a comprehensive treatment plan in order to get them back to a pain free life. Dr. Meredith Warner specializes in the treatment of orthopedic issues, providing operative and non-operative treatment plans of orthopedic problems, including musculoskeletal pain such as chronic back, neck and foot pain, reconstructive surgery of the foot and ankle, arthritis, diabetic, hammer toe, bunion, wound care, work injuries, fitness and nutrition and osteoporosis issues.