How to manage a broken ankle

A broken ankle is considered as a painful injury and not usually life-threatening. If an individual is suspected with a broken ankle, it is important that you are ready to provide care until medical care can be sought.

Indications of a broken ankle

  • Pain and swelling
  • Bruising
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Deformity
  • Diminished mobility of the ankle
  • Damaged skin with bone visible
  • The individual is unable to bear weight on the affected ankle
Broken-ankle
The individual is unable to bear weight on the affected ankle

Caring for a broken ankle

  • Always remember that safety must be observed first. You have to ensure that the individual is in a safe location.
  • Assess the ABC (airway, breathing and circulation).
  • If bleeding is present, you have to control it. All you have to do is apply direct pressure using a clean cloth or gauze.
  • Check for other injuries. If the individual shows signs of injury to the head, back or neck, do not move the individual in any way. Only when the individual is in danger, you can move the individual to a safe place.
  • The broken skin should be covered with sterile dressings. If needed, the wound can be rinsed using sterile or saline solution. As for open wounds, stitches are required.
  • While waiting for the emergency team, instruct the individual to remain still and wait for the arrival of the ambulance. In case the emergency team is not available, you have to apply a splint to the broken ankle. Before splinting, you have to check the circulation, sensation and motion. You can check the circulation by comparing the temperature and color of the damaged ankle against the uninjured ankle. As for the sensation, ask the individual which toe you are touching. Lastly, for the motion, ask the individual to wriggle his/her toes.

Splinting a broken ankle

  • Splint the broken ankle using a pillow. You can also create a splint using cardboard. Just make sure that the foot and shin area are immobilized. Any movement can cause pressure on the ankle and make sure that the wrapping is not too tight to disrupt proper circulation.
  • After applying the splint, you have to check the circulation, sensation and motion again.
  • Apply an ice pack over the ankle to minimize the swelling. Place a clean towel or cloth between the ice pack and skin to prevent frostbite. Leave the ice pack for 15 minutes and remove for 15 minutes.

Important tips to bear in mind

Do not move the individual if you suspect a head, neck or back injury unless his/her safety is at risk.

Always observe the universal precautions and utilize protective equipment in cases when you might come in contact with blood or other bodily fluids.

You have to call for emergency assistance if the leg is broken above the knee, a broken hip, neck or back injury, a broken pelvis or head injury.

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