Fractures of the calcaneus (heel bone) typically occur during high-impact events, such as falls or car crashes. In most cases, the heel is crushed under the weight of the body, and the bone is widened, shortened and deformed. These fractures can have severe consequences, often altering the individual’s gait and ability to move freely. The best treatment paths typically require surgery to reconstruct the anatomy of the heel and restore mobility. However, some factors are never adequately treated and result in long-term complications, including swelling, pain, discomfort, and arthritis.
Patients with calcaneus fractures typically report pain, bruising, swelling, decreased the range of motion and heel deformity. Minor fractures may not disrupt the patient’s ability to walk but limping a common side effect. The calcaneus works with the Achilles tendon to support your body weight. If the calcaneus is deformed, your muscles and tendons cannot adequately support your weight. Both the foot and ankle feel unstable, causing the individual to limp.
Calcaneus fractures vary in severity, depending on several fractures. The number of fractures, the size of bone fragments and injury to surrounding tissue determine the severity of the fracture. If the bone breaks and sticks out through the skin, or the wound penetrates down to the bone, the injury is considered an open fracture. These types of fractures have a high risk for infection. Open fractures damage the surrounding muscles, ligaments, and tendons, ultimately taking a long time to heal.
A doctor will examine several characteristics of the individual’s injury to determine the best treatment path. The purpose of every treatment path is to restore the normal anatomy of the heel. Nonsurgical treatment focuses on holding the bones in the foot in proper position as they heal. These options are best for patients with milder fractures, in which the bone stays in place. Surgical treatments are in recommended if the bones are shifted out of place. The goal of surgery is to reconstruct the shape of the calcaneus fracture. The doctor will work with the individuals to find the best surgical option for the fracture and prepare them for operation.