Symptoms and Signs of Dislocated Ankle (Ankle Dislocation)

Medical Author: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Medically Reviewed on 5/5/2022

Doctor's Notes on Dislocated Ankle (Ankle Dislocation)

The ankle is a joint comprised of the distal parts of the tibia and fibula plus the foot's bone (termed the talus) along with associated structures like ligaments. A dislocated ankle occurs when one or more of the ankle joint bones are displaced from their normal location by blunt trauma to the ankle. Although there are several types of ankle dislocations (for example, posterior, anterior, lateral, superior), the most common is a posterior dislocation of the talus. Pain at the time of injury is usually the first sign along with difficulty walking or standing. Swelling and bruising usually occur along with a deformity of the ankle joint. Numbness and tingling of the foot may occur. If the foot appears pale with slow capillary filling, the vasculature to the foot may be damaged and may require a quick reduction of the ankle to save the foot. Unfortunately, many dislocated ankles include one or more bone fractures.

The common causes of a dislocated ankle are

  • auto accidents,
  • falls, and
  • sports injuries.

Being involved with these activities increases the risk to develop a dislocated ankle. Patients who have medical problems that include joint laxity are at increased risk of developing ankle dislocations. Imaging techniques like X-rays, CT, and others can help diagnose the type of dislocated ankle the patient may have. A doctor should perform a reduction (putting the bones back in their normal position) quickly to avoid complications like

  • chronic pain,
  • reduced or loss of range of motion, and
  • joint instability.

However, reduction may not be possible in some patients. Such individuals usually require surgical reduction and repair.

What Are the Treatments for a Dislocated Ankle?

The treatment involves several steps as follows:

  • Usually, IV medicine to reduce pain of reduction, IV sedation, and muscle relaxation
  • Reduction of the dislocation (ankle bones put back in normal position): this reduction done manually as soon as possible after X-rays or immediately if the ankle blood supply and/or nerve function is compromised
  • Rarely, surgical reduction and injury repair may be needed.
  • Repeat X-rays to confirm reduction.
  • Apply a cast or splint to the foot.

Follow up with an orthopedic surgeon.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.