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Understanding Ankle Surgery

Mar 23, 2015

The ankle is a very sensitive joint in the body and is easily injured. Non-surgical treatment methods could be effective in treating mild injuries, but when an ankle injury is severe, such as with a ligament tear or a fracture, surgery may be necessary.

Keep reading to find out about ankle surgery and to see if you might be a good candidate.

Anatomy of the Ankle

Learning about the anatomy of the ankle can help you gain a better understanding of the pain you’re experiencing, and it may even help you identify the kind of injury you’re dealing with.

The ankle is a joint that’s formed by the connection of three bones: the talus, the tibia, and the fibula. The talus sits on the calcaneus, or the heel bone.

Ligaments protect the joint and hold the bones in place. They also work to prevent the ankle from rolling or twisting in a way that could result in injury.

The ankle is controlled by muscles in the lower leg, as well as muscles on the outside of the ankle and foot. The calf muscles and Achilles tendon enable the ankle to bend downward, the posterior tibialis muscle supports the arch and turns the foot inward, and the anterior tibialis pulls the ankle upward.

Ankle Injuries

The following ankle injuries can typically be treated with non-operative methods if they are mild, but will require surgery when they are severe.

  • Sprains – A sprained ankle is one of the most common injuries that approximately 25,000 people experience daily. When you roll your ankle, or your foot twists beyond its limits, the ligaments stretch too far and tissues may tear. Slight tears may heal with rest, but if the ligament is completely torn, it will need to be reattached with surgery.
  • Fractures – When one bone of the ankle is fractured, you may not experience an excessive amount of pain and can probably even walk on it. However, if several bones are fractured, there will be more pain, especially when putting weight on it.

Your doctor will order X-rays to determine if and where a fracture is present. If it’s found that your ankle bones are out of place and unable to heal on their own, surgery will be necessary.


If you suffered a severe sprain, it will be necessary to undergo surgery to reattach the ligament to the bone. The surgeon could use stitches or sutures to reattach the ligament, or they may use other ligaments or tendons in the ankle to repair the damaged ligaments.

If you’ve experienced a fracture that left your ankle unstable, your bone fragments will need to be repositioned into their normal alignment and secured with screws or plates that are attached to the outer part of the bone.
Dealing with ankle pain can drastically affect your daily life, so it’s always best to see a doctor at the first signs of injury. If non-surgical methods have not been effective, surgery can help you get back to normal.

For more information about foot and ankle pain, including treatment methods, download our e-book, Pains and Sprains: A Complete Guide to Foot Injuries and Disorders.