About the healing of a broken fibula

Written by gregory hamel
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About the healing of a broken fibula
("Red plaster socks" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: ItzaFineDay (Tavis Ford) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.)

The fibula is the smaller of two bones in the lower part of the leg between the ankle and the knee. Fractures of the fibula are fairly common because the bone is part of the weight-bearing and support system of the foot and lower legs. Healing a fibula fracture requires attention from a doctor and immobilising the leg for several weeks.

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Types

The type of fracture the fibula has suffered plays a large role in the treatment and healing process. Fibula fractures can occur as the result of cracking due to repetitive stress to the bone over time. Stress fractures are usually not severe and may be incomplete breaks, meaning the bone is cracked but the break does not run though the whole bone and splitting it in two. Breaks caused by a trauma to the lower leg may be more severe, resulting in a complete break where the bone splits in two or even multiple parts. In severe cases, part of the bone may protrude from the skin, which is known as an "open" break. This requires immediate medical attention to prevent infection.

Home Treatment

Broken legs usually occur during physical activity or as the result of an accident of some kind. In these situations, it is not always possible to access medical help immediately. The injured leg should be rested immediately, and ice should be applied with ice packs or by submerging the leg in ice water. Elevating the leg and using a compression bandage around the lower leg or the upper leg if it is too painful can help reduce swelling.

Medical Treatment

Medical treatment of a fibular fracture will typically begin with an x-ray to determine the location, type and severity of the break. If the broken pieces of the bone are not aligned properly, the doctor may have to manipulate the broken pieces to align them, and then the leg is often set in a splint to immobilise it. A full hard cast may be applied later or instead of a splint. Keeping the bone immobilised and keeping weight off of the leg by using crutches or a wheelchair is an essential part of healing a fibula fracture.

Bone Healing Process

Bones heal themselves naturally over time. Treatment for a bone fracture is focused on allowing the body the best possible environment for healing. When a bone breaks, the body forms a clot of blood between the broken parts of the bone. Over time, the clotted blood is replaced by stiffer tissue and cartilage, which is eventually itself replaced by hard bone. After the break has been filled in and connected with new bone, it still can take months for the new bone to fully harden and attain the same level of circulation as healthy bone.

Time Frame

Broken bones usually take between six to eight weeks to heal to a point where immobilisation can be ceased and weight can be put on the bone. Depending on the type of break, recovery time may be longer or shorter--bones broken in multiple places will take longer to heal. It is also important not to resume activity too quickly after a cast or other immobilising device is removed. Your fibula may be ready for mild activity, but running, jumping and sports should be resumed slowly and cautiously.

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