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Ankle Fracture (cont.)

Broken Ankle Diagnosis

A doctor will evaluate the ankle to determine if there is an ankle fracture or if the joint has been damaged sufficiently to become unstable. Joint instability often suggests multiple fractures, a fracture with a ligament injury, ligament injury alone, or dislocation.

The doctor will seek a history of the injury and will ask questions to determine the possible fracture patterns.

  • Where does it hurt now?
  • How long ago did the injury happen?
  • Does the knee, shin, or foot hurt also?
  • How did the injury happen?
  • Did the ankle turn in or out?
  • Did the person hear a crack or a pop?
  • Was the person able to walk immediately after the injury?
  • Can the person walk now?
  • Does the person have any new numbness or tingling in their leg, ankle, or foot?
  • Has the person had previous ankle fractures, sprains, or surgeries on the injured ankle?

The doctor will perform a physical exam, looking for:

  • Evidence of bruising, abrasions, or cuts
  • Swelling, bleeding, and tissue damage
  • Pain, deformities, and the grinding or movement of broken bones of the knee, shin, ankle, and foot
  • Pain, excess looseness of a joint, or complete tear in ligaments
  • Fluid in the joint and joint stability
  • Seeking a pulse and looking for injured arteries
  • Testing sensation and movement in both the ankle and foot
  • Ankle X-rays if a broken bone is suspected; some doctors may try to avoid unnecessary and costly X-rays by following certain guidelines such as the Ottawa ankle rules (see reference 2)
  • X-rays of the knee, shin, or foot depending on where pain is; children may get a comparison X-ray of the uninjured ankle to see subtle changes in growth plates due to injury.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/16/2013

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