Broken bones, or fractures, are a common complaint in podiatry offices. In many cases, immobility in a cast will be enough to hold the bones in place as they heal. However, extensive breaks that can’t heal properly on their own will need surgical intervention. Our podiatrists have extensive experience in foot and ankle surgery for various fractures and comprehensive post-surgical care to get you back on your feet.
Treatment for Different Types of Fractures
Several surgical techniques can be used to set and repair broken bones. Treatment depends on the location of the fracture, the severity of the break, and the specific bones and joints affected. A stable fracture may need only a cast or minimally invasive surgery because the broken ends of the bone are still in alignment.
However, fixation surgery may be needed to correct more complex fractures such as:
- Incomplete fractures where the bone is cracked but not broken in two
- Transverse fractures that have a short, straight fracture line across the bone
- Oblique fractures that have an angled fracture line across the bone
- Greenstick fractures (common in children) where the bone is fractured but also bent
- Complete fractures where the bone is broken into two separate pieces
- Compound fractures where the broken bone protrudes through the skin
- Comminuted fractures where the bone has broken into three or more pieces
What Does Fixation Surgery Involve?
Fixation surgery involves fitting permanent screws or plates into your bones to fuse them back together and provide strength or stability that would otherwise be lost. Orthopedic surgeons perform these procedures so that the bones, joints, muscles, and tendons function together after healing.
A broken bone in the leg, foot, or ankle may involve:
- Traction. If the fracture is unstable or too far out of realignment, doctors may use a system of pulleys, weights, and pins to pull the bones back into position. The weights are anchored to a pin inside your bone. As more weight is added, the bone is pulled into place and realigned gradually. Once the bones are in place, surgeons may remove the pin, add a cast, or move on to internal fixation surgery.
- External fixation. If the skin, muscles, or ligaments surrounding the bone are too damaged to tolerate surgery, the bones may be temporarily stabilized using external fixation. Similar to traction, metal pins or screws are placed into the broken bone along the fracture and connected to a metal bar or frame outside the skin. This metal fixator holds the bones in position before the next stage of treatment.
- Internal fixation. This procedure involves repositioning (or reducing) bone fragments back into alignment and securing them with surgical screws, pins, plates, or rods. Screws and pins are commonly used to hold pieces of bone together, rods may be inserted down into the marrow space, and metal plates are fixed to the outer surface of the bone.
Which Bones Might Need Surgery to Repair a Fracture?
Trauma, overuse injuries, and osteoporosis are common causes of fractures in the feet and ankles. Surgery may be required to stabilize the bones of the:
- Feet. Fusion surgery involves permanently joining together one or more bones in the foot. Podiatrists commonly use mid-foot fusion surgery (arthrodesis) for joint pain caused by correct flat feet.
- Ankles. Fixation may be necessary for ankle and lower leg fractures caused by trauma, and fusion surgery may be used to permanently fuse the bones of an arthritic ankle into one piece.
- Toes. Patients with bunions might need arthrodesis to realign the bones of the big toe joint, while patients with chronic pain and inflammation of the big toe may benefit from joint fusion surgery.
If you’re tired of living with foot and ankle pain, the skilled podiatry team at Northwest Extremity Specialists is ready to provide the relief you need. Call us today at 503-245-2420 to make an appointment in the Portland-area office closest to you.