Fractures at the base of the tibia (shinbone) are rare occurrences — but they can happen — most commonly from a drastic fall or car accident. Pilon fractures are frequently accompanied by additional breaks in the fibula, and depending on the nature of the break, they may require a variety of unique treatments and solutions.
What You Need to Know About Pilon Fractures
What is a Pilon Fracture?
A pilon fracture occurs at the distal section of the tibia, which is the part of the ankle joint responsible for carrying and supporting your body weight.
While pilon fractures happen rather infrequently, they can come with a host of other breaks and fractures when they do happen. Since pilon fractures most commonly occur in extreme falls or vehicle accidents, additional injuries to the head or abdomen are common pairings. Additional leg bones, such as the fibula, will most likely fracture as well.
Pilon fractures are serious injuries that typically require both emergency treatment and a long-term care solution.
Finding the best pilon fracture treatment starts with a visit to Resurgens Orthopaedics. Make an appointment with our Atlanta-area experts now!
What Causes Pilon Fractures?
Generally, the most common source of pilon fractures is a strong rotational force directed towards the weight-bearing portion of the ankle. This force typically originates from a high-impact collision. Once the impact occurs, bones from the foot are forced upward into the tibia, often shattering the fibula in turn.
Pilon Fracture Symptoms
PIlon fractures are typically indicated by the following symptoms in the lower ankle area:
Bleeding and open wounds
An ankle appearing crooked or deformed
Inability to bear weight on the foot
If you experience these symptoms around your lower leg and ankle, especially exposed bone and deformations around the ankle, there is a likelihood you've experienced a pilon fracture.
How is a Pilon Fracture Diagnosed?
If you believe you're experiencing a pilon fracture, you should seek immediate medical attention. An emergency physician will be able to diagnose whether you need further attention and should call in the expertise of an orthopaedic surgeon. Only a qualified physician can direct your pilon fracture treatment.
Once called in, an orthopaedic surgeon will examine the affected areas and order a series of CT-Scans or x-rays if they determine further treatment is required. These tests will help you further understand what course of action is needed.
Pilon Fracture Treatment
Depending on the severity of the injury, a pilon fracture can be treated either surgically or non-surgically. The best course of action will depend on a number of factors unique to your condition.
If the tibia bones are still aligned after a pilon fracture, you may be able to treat your fracture with non-surgical options. A splint may first be required, followed by a leg cast. You may need to walk with a cane for a period of six to twelve weeks, and you will need further monitoring from an orthopaedic specialist.
Surgical treatments will most often be required for pilon fractures when the lower leg bones are misaligned.
Pilon fracture treatment takes place in separate phases:
External Fixation: External fixation involves a series of metal pins placed on the bone through a number of small incisions. These fixators are meant to stabilize the joint fracture to reduce tissue swelling and injury.
Open Reduction and Internal Fixation: Open reduction and internal fixation occur after the desired reduction of swelling by the external fixators. After an incision into the affected area, metal plates and screws will help align your fractured bones back into place.
Addressing Complications: The intensity of a pilon fracture means that infection or swelling is a stronger possibility than normal. Nonunion, a failure of the bones to heal, or malunion, tempered healing of the bones. Complications can mean that further surgical treatment is required.
Only a qualified orthopaedic physician can determine your best possible course of action. Schedule an appointment with our Foot & Ankle specialists now.