Healing time for a fractured ankle can depend on a large number of factors. How the bone was broken, how badly it was broken, what is needed to repair it and patient compliance all determine how close to the normal four months it will take the patient to heal. Sometime surgery is required to reassemble the bones, other times a simple splint will do. Patient conformity with rehabilitation instructions probably has one of the bigger impacts on healing time.
Types of Fractures
Fractures can range from small hairline ones that can barely be seen on an X-ray but cause mild discomfort to compound fractures where the bone is shattered and protruding through the skin. Most fractures lie somewhere in the middle and are caused by trauma. Some, however, can be caused by infection or cancer weakening the bone to a point it cannot support the body weight.
Types of Immoblization
Stabilising fractures while they heal is done with an assortment of devices depending on the severity of the break. Patients who suffer mild fractures can be given a walking cast, or splint, whereas people with larger fractures are given fibreglass casts immobilising the joints above and below the affected bone. In worst cases, the bones are held in traction or require surgical repair.
Rehabilitating a fracture is done on an individual basis. There are many things to consider before beginning to stress the healing break. First, how bad was the original fracture? Was there a surgery or more than one fracture site? It is beneficially to begin using the bones as they heal to aide in appropriate bone remodelling, but it should be done specific to the injury and requires a physician's expert opinion to set up a rehabilitation program.
Great care should be taken to follow a doctor's rehabilitation orders. A healthy person who broke a bone and follows doctors orders should see it healed in about four months. Not resting the ankle sufficiently, removing splints or casts early and overuse may result in poor healing or no healing. This, in turn, can make the time before the patient has full use stretch out indefinitely.
Occasionally with severe breaks, such as spiral fractures, compound fractures and multiple fractures, surgery is required to correctly set and hold the bones in place. Reconstruction can be done with screws or, in more complicated situations, plates and multiple screws. Sometimes these are left in permanently but are most often removed once the bone shows it is healing well.
- Surgical Wound Healing and Management, Mark S. Granick and Richard L. Gamelli, Informa HealthCare, 2007