If you suffer from swelling of the leg,and severe pain and soreness to the touch please Schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists as soon as possible
What is a Pilon Fracture?
Pilon fractures involve a type of break that happens at the bottom of the tibia (shinbone). With Pilon Fractures, the other lower leg bone, the fibula, frequently also breaks. A pilon fracture typically happens as the result of a large impact, such as a car crash or fall from a height. Severe injuries such as Pilon fractures can permanently affect the ankle joint. Patients with conditions such as Osteoporosis have a higher risk of all types of bone fracture, due to decreased bone density.
What are the Symptoms of a Pilon Fracture?
The most common symptoms of fractures involve pain. Pain caused by a fracture tends to develop slowly and gets worse during physical activities. Symptoms of a fracture may include:
- Pain that lessens when resting
- Pain that continually gets worse when performing daily activities
- Swelling and tenderness at the site of the break
- The area may appear bruised
Additional Complications of Pilon Fractures
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 Pilon 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.