Fractures that affect the lower leg can be caused by falls, trauma, overuse and sports injuries. A broken fibula which is the bone located on the exterior of the lower leg can be minor or severe enough to disrupt with the ability to walk. The treatment for a broken fibula is based on the severity of the injury.
Immobilization and adequate rest
A stress fracture of the fibula is managed with immobilization and rest. Take note that these fractures are caused by repetitive activities such as running. This injury typically affects the base of the fibula which is the large bone on the exterior of the ankle. On the other hand, in rare circumstances, they can occur at the upper part of the bone close to the knee, especially with constant jumping activities.
A fibula stress fracture might be casted or splinted and crutches are often utilized to minimize the pain with walking for 1-2 weeks until the individual can bear full weight on the leg. Activities are generally resumed as the pain is reduced as long as under the guidance of the doctor.
Closed reduction involves realignment of the ends of the fractured fibula without surgery. In case the broken ends are close to proper position, the doctor will utilize his/her hands to realign the broken ends of the fibula to allow it to grow back together.
The cast can be applied to keep the bones in proper position as they heal. The fibula is not considered as a weight-bearing bone and the doctor will allow the individual to walk using the injured leg while it is healing. On the other hand, the fibula contributes to the stability of the ankle and might be required to use crutches to avoid putting weight on the leg until the bone is fully healed. Various factors can affect this condition including the activity level, severity of injury and preference of the doctor.
A fractured fibula might require surgery especially if the bone pieces have moved far out of alignment or if the bone has broken into several pieces. Internal fixation is a surgical procedure that is used to realign and mechanically steady a badly broken bone.
A fractured fibula can be stabilized with a plate or screws. In some cases, K-wires or flexible metal wires are also utilized to hold the broken bones together to provide stability and allow them to heal.
In some circumstances, a fractured fibula does not heal back together which is called nonunion. Take note that this can occur with the fibula which usually affects the inferior end of the bone where there is reduced soft tissue coverage and diminished blood supply.
Nonunion can be managed in a conservative manner using electrical stimulation and magnetic devices or it might require surgery. The region of the bone that is damaged might be taken out or surgically steadied using a plate. In some cases, bone grafting might be needed to fill up the area where the bone has not healed.