3 common types of fibula fractures

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A fibula fracture occurs when the smaller of the two bones in the lower leg (the segment between the knee and the ankle), the fibula, is injured.

Get Medication Information / Brianna Gilmartin

The largest shin bone, the tibia, supports most of the body's weight . The smallest bone, the fibula, is found on the outside of the leg.

Fibula

The fibula begins just below the knee on the outside of the leg and extends to the ankle. The bone is a long, thin bone.

Although bone supports little body weight, it is an important ligament attachment site in both the knee and ankle, and it is also connected to the tibia by a thick ligament called syndesmosis.

Although the fibula is an important bone, part of the bone can be removed for surgical procedures when bone is required in another part of the body. When these transplant procedures are performed, people can function normally despite the absence of a large part of the fibula.

Types of fibula fractures

There are several different types of damage to the fibula:

  • Fibula fractures due to ankle injury
  • Fibula fractures that occur in conjunction with tibia fractures.
  • Fibula stress fractures

These are not the only types of fibula injuries; they account for the vast majority of fibula injuries. By far the most common are injuries that occur when the ankle is injured. Usually the ankle is bent or twisted and the fibula is damaged as part of the injury.

Symptoms

As mentioned, fibula fractures can occur from injuries to other bones, ligaments, and tendons in the knee and ankle.

The most common symptoms associated with a fibula fracture include:

  • Pain just above the fibula (outside the leg)
  • Swelling in the area of the fracture.
  • Contusion over the injury site

A fibula fracture can usually be diagnosed with an X-ray. Other imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT), are usually not required, but in some situations, a fibula fracture may not show up on a regular X-ray.

These situations include injuries such as stress fractures (described below). Your healthcare provider will examine the injury site, as well as examine the knee and ankle joints for associated injuries that may affect the treatment of a fibula fracture.

Ankle injury

Fibula fractures are usually the result of an ankle injury . If a fibula fracture is found, the ankle should also be examined for possible injury.

The most common type of fibula fracture is an isolated injury to the end of the fibula at the level of the ankle. These injuries occur similar to a severely dislocated ankle. Often an injury can be treated in the same way as a badly sprained ankle.

Fracture of the fibula at the ankle level without another ankle injury

Isolated fibula fractures, in which the ankle is not affected, can often be treated with simple protection. These injuries, known as a lateral ankle fracture , occur when the ankle is twisted or flexed uncomfortably and the inner (medial) side of the ankle is not affected.

In these situations, a brace is sufficient to support the ankle. Crutches are often used for days or weeks to relieve swelling and pain. Once the pain has subsided, patients begin rehabilitation to resume mobility, strengthening, and walking exercises.

Fibula fracture with ankle injury

Fibula fractures involving damage to the medial ankle, medial malleolus , or deltoid ligament often require more aggressive treatment.

These situations, called bimalleolar ankle fractures , generally require surgery to stabilize the ankle. Without surgery, the ankle often heals with misalignment, leading to arthritis of the ankle .

Another type of injury that can occur with a fibula fracture is damage to the syndesmosis of the ankle . Syndesmosis is a group of ligaments that hold the two bones of the leg together, just above the ankle.

When syndesmosis is injured at the ankle, an injury that can occur with a fibula fracture, surgery is often required to restore bone alignment.

Fibula fractures with ankle injuries generally require surgery.

Fibula and tibial shaft fractures

Serious injuries from car accidents, sports injuries, or falls can injure both the lower leg and the fibula above the ankle. These injuries, often called tibia fractures, generally require surgery to keep the legs in alignment.

When the tibia is surgically repaired, the fibula generally does not require a separate operation to align the bone. For some tibia fractures, a cast (from hip to foot) will provide the necessary support without surgery.

Fibula stress fractures

In some people, especially long-distance runners or hikers, the fibula can be damaged by repetitive stress. This type of injury is known as a stress fracture. Pain from a stress fracture can start gradually. The pain usually worsens with increased activity level and decreases with rest.

Watch out

How a fibula fracture is treated depends on several factors, including where the fracture is located and whether other injuries were associated with the fracture.

Surgery may be recommended, but a splint or cast is usually placed to prevent movement and allow the bone to heal. If possible, your healthcare provider can straighten broken bones without open surgery.

Although isolated fibula fractures tend to heal quickly, some may be associated with more complex injuries that require additional treatment. This is why it is very important that a healthcare professional familiar with the treatment of fibula fractures evaluate your injury and ensure that the appropriate treatment is recommended.

Since only a small fraction of body weight is transferred through the fibula (most of the weight is transferred through the greater tibia), many types of fibula fractures can be treated without surgery. However, as described, fibula fractures that occur in conjunction with other fractures or ligament injuries often require more invasive treatment.

Fibula surgery

The most common way to repair a fractured fibula is to use a metal plate and screws. Usually a plate is placed on the outside of the bone with a few screws above the fracture site and a few below. Sometimes other methods are used to repair a fibula fracture, depending on the type and location of the fracture.

By reviewing the operative report from the time of the operation, your surgeon will tell you which method to repair a broken fibula, as well as any other necessary treatment. The diagnosis of fibula fracture is recorded as ICD-10 code S82. Any modification code can indicate the side of the destruction, the mechanism and other characteristics.

Complications

Common complications associated with fibula fracture surgery may be related to the incision and the underlying apparatus. Since there is very little soft tissue between the skin and the bone, problems arise with wound healing, infections, and painful hardware. common surgical complications.

Wound healing complications are of great concern to people with underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, that can interfere with wound healing. Smokers are also at higher risk for wound complications .

Infection can occur after any surgical procedure, but it is more common in people with medical conditions that can compromise immune defenses.

Finally, pain associated with implanted equipment is not uncommon. Some people may choose to remove the surgical plates and screws after the fracture has healed.

Other types of complications are also possible, depending on the type of injury, including slow healing and the development of arthritis.

Get the word of drug information

Talk to your doctor about the best solution for your fracture. You may feel nervous if more invasive treatments are needed. Ask if this is really the best option and confirm that the alternatives will not help. Remember, the procedure is ultimately designed to heal your injured fibula.

After you recover, be sure to ask your doctor for prevention and safety tips to reduce the risk of further injury, especially if the injury was due to some activity. It can be frustrating waiting until you feel better to continue doing what you love, but it's worth it.

In general, you can reduce the risk of fibula fracture by working to maintain bone mass. Some factors, like age and gender, are out of your control, but others, like quitting smoking and exercising, can help.

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