The medical term for a broken ankle is a bimalleolar fracture, or a break at the lower parts of the tibia and fibula. Bimalleolar fractures commonly occur due to falls, car accidents, and sports-related activities. A number of bones in the ankle can fracture in an accident, leading to severe pain and temporary disability. The displacement of bones in the ankle often requires surgery to treat. Post-surgery recovery generally takes several weeks of physical rehabilitation and home exercises. Bimalleolar fractures can cause great pain and suffering as well as financial losses. When someone else’s negligence results in a broken ankle, take action against the responsible party.
Types of Bimalleolar Fractures
Ankle fractures can be simple breaks in a single bone or can include several complex fractures and displaced bones. There are three main categories of bimalleolar fractures: unimalleolar, bimalleolar, and trimalleor. One-third of all ankle fractures are either bimalleolar or trimalleor. Ankle fractures often occur in traumas such as car crashes or trip and fall accidents. Depending on the severity of the fracture, the ligaments in the ankle can suffer damage as well.
Three main bones make up the ankle: the tibia, fibula, and talus. Each bone has different areas doctors use to classify the fracture. For example, if the end of the fibula fractures, it’s a lateral malleolus fracture. The ankle also has two main joints, the ankle join and the syndesmosis joint. Multiple ligaments hold these joints together, making the ankle stable. When an accident compromises the bones, joints, or ligaments, the victim may be unable to walk for 12 to 16 weeks during recovery.
Common Symptoms of a Bimalleolar Fracture
If your bimalleolar fracture isn’t severe enough that you can immediately identify you have a broken ankle, this is probably a good sign. However, every ankle fracture injury requires the attention of a physician. Common symptoms of a bimalleolar fracture include:
- Severe and immediate ankle pain
- Swelling of the fractured area
- Bruising or hematoma
- Painful to the touch
- Inability to put weight on the injured foot
- Physical deformity, in the case of joint dislocation
These symptoms can be very painful. Walking may also be labored and/or difficult for several months. The effects of a bimalleolar fracture can be severe, preventing a victim from returning to work during the recovery process. Lost wages and mounting medical bills can also put a strain on the victim’s finances.
Treatment for Bimalleolar Fractures
A physician will assess your fracture using an imaging test and will recommend treatment. The level of the fracture determines the type of treatment that’s best for your injury. If your ankle is stable and the bone is not dislocated, physicians most often recommend non-surgical treatment. Your doctor can prescribe several different non-surgical treatments, including a short leg cast or a high-top tennis shoe.
If your fracture makes the ankle unstable, you may need surgery to reconstruct the normal shape of the broken anklebone, decrease ligament damage, and accelerate recovery. During surgery, the surgeon will reposition the ankle and hold it in place with special screws or metal plates. After surgery, you will need a cast to keep the ankle in place while it heals. Your rate of recovery will vary depending on the severity of the bimalleolar fracture, but ankles can typically bear a complete weight load 12 to 16 weeks after treatment.
Complications are rare in bimalleolar fracture surgeries, and if there are complications, they typically relate directly to the surgery. Risks can involve complications due to infection, nerve damage, anesthesia, bleeding, or blood clots. However, the majority of bimalleolar fractures do not result in complications and do not require additional surgery to repair.