Broken ankles occur in about 184 out of every 100,000 people in the United States every year. They can occur in people of any age. If the fracture is serious and involves several bones, you might need surgery to implant screws and plates in the bones to be sure that they heal properly.
Screws and Plates
Depending on the severity of your broken ankle, you could need screws inserted into the bones. You could also require a combination of screws and plates. Screws and plated used to hold broken bones in place are usually made from titanium and its alloys. To avoid the risk of corrosion, all screws and plates used in a bone should be of the same metal.
If your ankle fracture has shifted the bones out of place or if your ankle is too unstable for you to put weight on, then surgical repair could be needed to fix it. In this case, metal screws or a metal plate with screws could be used to hold the broken bones in your ankle in place and keep them in the proper alignment as they heal, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Some risks are associated with using screws and plates to hold the bones of a broken ankle in place. Infection of the bone or of the soft tissue surrounding the screws and plates can occur. Sometimes the bones will fail to heal together despite being held in the correct place. The implants can also become loose, necessitating a second surgery to replace them, according to "Surgical Treatment of Orthopaedic Trauma."
After having surgery to implant screws or plates into your broken ankle, you will need months to heal and rehabilitate the joint. Your doctor might put a cast on your ankle to keep the joint stabilised. Screws and plates that are set too tightly against the bone can result in stress shielding, in which the metal bears too much of the bone's load, causing the bone to atrophy. During your recovery, your doctor will monitor your bone to be sure this does not happen.
There is a chance you could experience significant pain from the screws and plate in your ankle while the broken bones heal. Your doctor can recommend pain medication that will help control your discomfort. After the fracture has healed, you can choose to have the implants removed. You can also have them removed if they are too prominent beneath the skin and you are unhappy with the appearance of your ankle and foot.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Ankle Fractures
- "Surgical Treatment of Orthopaedic Trauma"; James P. Stannard, Andrew H. Schmidt, Philip J. Kregor; 2007