Repairing Your Ankle Fracture

The ankle is a critical joint for movement and support, made up of 3 bones: the tibia, fibula, and talus. Constant movement means the possibility of injury, and the ankle is prone to twists, sprains, and of course, fractures. Hundreds of thousands of fractures happen every year in sports, car accidents, or a simple slip on a wet floor. An ankle fracture can limit movement and may need immediate medical attention. And in the worst cases that all 3 bones break, a surgeon will need to complete an ORIF procedure.

minnesota valley surgery center Surgery For An Ankle Fracture What Happens During An ORIF Procedure

What is an ORIF procedure?

Minor fractures where the bone is not out of place may not need surgery. A cast and physical therapy can help, but some will need ORIF. ORIF stands for open reduction internal fixation. The surgical procedure restores the pieces of severely broken bones. ORIF procedure is often an urgent surgery and would be recommended if the bone is broken in multiple places, moved out of position, or has stuck out of the skin.

What happens during an ORIF procedure?

As with all other procedures, the attending physician or an orthopedic surgeon will explain the procedure in detail. The orthopedic surgeon will lead the operation, which can last for a few hours. The surgeon or anesthesiologist provides general or local anesthesia. A nurse and doctor will monitor key vital signs such as heart rate and blood pressure. Once everything is ready, the procedure begins, starting with reduction.

Putting the pieces together

For the bones to heal properly, the surgeon must ensure that none are out of place. This part of the procedure is the reduction. The surgeon will make an incision on the ankle and through the muscle. Based on the degree of damage, ORIF will be an open surgery. However, the doctor can use minimally invasive techniques as well. The reduction happens by carefully re-aligning the broken pieces of the ankle.

Keeping things in place

With everything in place, the next step is to keep the bones in place for the recovery period. The fixation of the bones involves using screws, metal plates, pins, or wires. For instance, the surgeon may drill metal screws into one or more bones to keep things together. Once everything is secure, the surgeon will close the incision, put on a bandage, then place the ankle in a cast or splint.

What happens after surgery?

After the procedure, the vital signs will still be monitored by a doctor or nurse. From there, the patient will go into recovery. There may be added tests that look at the surrounding nerves to make sure that there’s no complication. For an open ORIF procedure, patients may need to stay for 1-3 additional days. With minimally invasive procedures, once all goes well, the patient can leave the same day. Surgery helps keep things in place, but the body needs time to heal the bones and restore movement.

All about recovery

ORIF fractures can take as little as 3 months to heal. However, for severe fractures, the timeframe can be as much as 12 months. While the bones heal, a physical or occupational therapist usually helps with restoring strength and range of motion. There will be some pain, swelling, and discomfort during the process. When the cast is removed, continue to perform exercises, use ice to reduce swelling, and keep the incision clean.

Make ORIF a success

Ankle fractures can happen suddenly and can be quite painful. For major injuries, ORIF can help move the bones back and place and keep each safe for recovery. For a successful surgery, make sure to follow the doctor’s instructions, particularly in pain management. The procedure is safe, effective, and can help patients to walk and move comfortably once again. For more information, speak with a healthcare provider.

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