Ankle Fracture (cont.)
What kind of doctor treats a broken ankle?
A broken ankle may be diagnosed by a general practitioner (family doctor, internist, pediatrician), or an emergency medicine doctor in a hospital.
The patient may be referred to a podiatrist (foot specialist) or an orthopedic surgeon for the care and further treatment of
the broken ankle depending on the severity of the injury or the need for possible surgery.
When to should I contact a health-care professional if I think I may have
broken my ankle?
If a person has injured an ankle, contact a doctor or go to an emergency department. Seek medical treatment for an ankle injury in the following situations.
The person cannot bear weight on the ankle.
- The pain remains intolerable despite using over-the-counter pain medications.
- Home care fails to reduce the pain.
- The foot or ankle becomes numb, partially numb, or pale.
- A gross deformity of the ankle bones is present (this may indicate an ankle dislocation)
- Open wound or bleeding over the injured area
- Bones or bone fragments visible outside the ankle skin
- Inability to move the toes
- Inability to move the ankle
- Cold or blue foot
How is a broken ankle diagnosed?
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 12/10/2015
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