If you suffer from deformity or foot pain due to a foot or ankle fracture, please Schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists as soon as possible.
What is the Calcaneus?
The calcaneus, also simply known as “The Heel Bone” , exists as the largest solid bone in the foot. It sits at the back end of the foot, below the group of bones that construct the ankle joint.
A calcaneus fracture injury can cause intense, debilitating pain. Calcaneus fractures usually occur from a high impact trauma like an automobile accident or falling from a large height. When the calcaneus breaks, it can cause the heel to deform, and appear wider or shorter.
How Serious is a Calcaneal Fracture?
While some Calcaneus fractures can cause less pain than others, they usually result in severe injuries. Orthopedic Foot and ankle specialists can perform surgery to reconstruct the shattered bone pieces to restore the proper structure of the bone. If the surgeon restores mobility to the foot, the patient can resume daily activities. In the worst case scenario, calcaneal fractures can result in long term pain, swelling, and arthritis.
If the specialist classifies the injury as an “open fracture”, that means the broken bone fragments have penetrated the skin. Open fractures routinely result in more serious damage to the tissues and may take more time to heal.
What are the Symptoms of a Calcaneal Fracture?
Patients suffering from calcaneus fractures report:
- A misshapen heel
- Difficulty bearing weight or walking
In less serious cases, patients may not suffer as much pain, suffering only a light limp. In these cases, the Achilles tendon relieves some of the pain by acting as a support, taking some of the body weight off of the damaged calcaneus. This usually only presents in patients whose fracture has not deformed the bone, allowing the structure of the joint to retain its strength.
Additional Complications of a Calcaneal Fracture?
In the case of a severely broken bone, other conditions can arise and cause further symptoms and complications, such as:
- Arthritis. A fracture that extends into a joint space can lead to osteoarthritis down the road, even long after the fracture itself heals. If an area you once fractured begins to hurt again years later, contact your foot and ankle specialist for an evaluation.
- Osteomyelitis. If the fractured bone has broken through the skin, bacteria can enter the exposed bone and lead to Osteomyelitis, otherwise known as a bone infection.
- Surrounding tissue damage. When severe enough, broken bones can jab adjacent nerve tissue or veins, sometimes leading to real damage. Patients should immediately talk to their physician if they develop numbness, tingling or circulation issues following a pilon fracture, as tissues deprived of blood for too long can die.
Who is At Risk of a Calcaneal Fracture?
Individuals will have a higher likelihood of fracturing their bones if they fall into one or more of the following categories:
- People who play high-impact sports. Pilon fractures most often result from taking the stress, impacts and injuries that often occur while playing sports such as basketball, football, and soccer.
- People Using improper equipment. Wearing ill-fitting skis or other foot related equipment such as skates can lead to a higher risk of accidents that can lead to pilon fractures. Pilon fractures can also occur after falling from a great height or an auto-accident.
- People suffering from osteoporosis. Osteoporosis causes bones to weaken faster than they would otherwise and heavily increases the risk of all fractures.
Treatment for a Foot Fracture
- Reduction. If the bone has broken in such a way that the two ends of the fracture now point in different directions, your foot and ankle specialist may need to physically push the fractured ends back into their natural alignment, a process known as a reduction.
- Immobilization. To ensure that the bone heals properly, the physician must immobilize the bone so that the fracture has time to knit back together without interruption. Most of the time this will require wearing a cast, although some minor fractures will only require a removable brace wrapping in gauze.
- Surgery. For severe fractures, orthopedic surgeons may need to perform surgery to reconstruct the bone. They may require hardware such as pins, or screws to hold the bones in place while healing. Depending on the case, the surgeon may or may not remove the hardware once the fracture has healed.
In the event of surgery, Patients should make sure to follow all post-operative instructions given by their orthopedic specialist. Patients will need to abide by “RICE”: rest, ice, compress, and elevate the foot, as well as avoid placing weight on the foot. Patients will need to make use of bandages, splints, surgical shoes, crutches, and/or canes after surgery. Your physician will teach you how to properly use all necessary equipment, and set follow up appointments to make sure your foot heals properly.