Fractures of the heel bone can lead to an abundance of complications for the patient. In the majority of cases, immediate treatment from a foot/ankle specialist will be required to treat this severe injury.
About the Heel Bone
The foot is made up of three main parts: the midfoot, hindfoot, and forefoot. The calcaneus, or heel bone, is located in the hindfoot. It is located beneath three bones that make up the ankle joint: tibia, fibula, and talus. The heel bone and the talus make up what is called the subtalar joint. This joint allows for sideways movement of the hindfoot and promotes balance on uneven surfaces.
Although uncommon, fractures of the calcaneus can occur. Only 2% of all adult fractures are of tarsal bones, and only about half of those are calcaneus fractures. There are several ways that the calcaneus can become fractured. Common catalysts may include the following:
- Twisting injury.
- Motor vehicle accident.
- Fall from an elevated surface.
The severity of calcaneus fractures can vary depending on the way the injury is sustained. For example, the force of a car accident can result in the complete shattering of the bone, while a minor twist may only lead to a small crack in the bone. The greater the impact, the greater the damage to the calcaneus. For minor fractures, walking may still be possible with a limp. However, for a more major fracture, the calcaneus may become deformed from the injury.
If you are unsure if your heel bone is fractured, here are some symptoms to look out for:
- Deformity of the heel.
- Difficulty walking.
- Difficulty putting weight upon the foot.
What Can an Ankle Surgeon Do?
Because you do so much with your feet, a fracture to the heel bone is a very serious injury. If you suspect that your calcaneus is fractured, it is important to seek out the help of an ankle surgeon. Upon discussing and assessing your symptoms, an ankle surgeon will be able to:
- Examine the movement and feeling of the toes and feet.
- Assess pulse in all areas of the foot to ensure sufficient blood flow.
- Search for potential injuries in other areas of the body.
Additionally, to properly diagnose a calcaneus fracture an ankle surgeon may perform an X-ray or a CT scan. Following the diagnosis of a calcaneus fracture via X-ray, an ankle surgeon will likely still order a CT scan due to the complexity of the bone. The CT scan will allow for a more detailed view of the foot and better assess the severity of the fracture.
After diagnosing the injury, there are several routes an ankle surgeon can take when it comes to treatment. For more minor injuries, the surgeon may recommend non-surgical treatment. Particularly, if pieces of the bone have not been displaced or broken, non-surgical treatment is a better option. The most commonly performed non-surgical treatment is immobilization. For this procedure, the surgeon will place a cast on the foot for 6 to 8 weeks in order to hold the bones in the foot in place while they heal.
For surgical treatment, there are more options available. Among these treatments include:
- Open reduction and internal fixation – During this procedure, the surgeon will make an incision in order to reposition bones to their normal alignment, using wires, metal plates, or screws.
- Percutaneous screw fixation – For this procedure, only smaller incisions are required. The surgeon will place small screws into the incisions in order to hold the fracture together.
Heel bone fractures are no laughing matter. Regardless of the corrective procedure performed by an ankle surgeon, the recovery time is quite long. For minor injuries and procedures, the recovery time can last about 3 to 4 months, while for worse injuries it can take up to 1 to 2 years to fully recover. That’s why you want to make sure to see the best ankle surgeon available to you. At FAASNY, our skilled ankle professionals will ensure you are under the best care possible. We will assess your injury and perform the procedure that is right for you. Don’t wait, contact us today!