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Non-Surgical Ankle Fracture

There are many varieties of ankle fracture that can occur.  Ankle fractures can be classified by the mechanism that caused that fracture, or the number of locations that have fractured, or by the location of the fracture of the fibula (the bone on the outside of the ankle) relative to the ankle joint line.

Perhaps the most important “classification” of ankle fracture to both the doctor and the patient is whether the fracture will need surgical correction or not.

In some fractures, the amount of displacement (shifting) of the fracture will determine the need for surgery.  In others, the need for surgery may be determined by the total number of fractures present at the ankle and the degree of instability that they create for the ankle joint.  In still others, there may be other factors involved in making the decision to operate or not.

Generally, non-surgical management (with a cast) is recommended if;

  1. The fracture pattern is relatively stable (only one, or sometimes no more than two fracture locations), and
  2. The fracture is relatively non-displaced (not shifted more than 2mm).  In some cases, where medical or other health circumstances may be present, non-surgical management of an ankle fracture may be recommended, even though the above two criteria may not be present.

Examples of fractures that were treated non-operatively (no surgery).


The goals of non-surgical management of ankle fractures are:

  • Maintain the fracture in its present alignment and prevent any further displacement /shifting
  • Provide sufficient support and stability to allow the bone to properly heal



Additional Resources

For a great general resource for foot and ankle fractures, please review Foot and Ankle Fractures – Patient Resources – developed by the Foot and Ankle Surgery Department at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Santa Rosa.