Ankle fracture

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This page is for adult patients. For pediatric patients, see: ankle fracture (peds)


Clinical Features

  • Examine for ecchymoses, abrasions, or swelling
  • Vascular and neurologic assessment
    • DP and PT pulses
    • 4 sensation distributions: saphenous nerve (medial mal), superficial fib (lat mal), sural nerve (lateral 5th digit), deep fib (1st web space)
  • Note skin integrity and areas of tenderness or crepitus over ankle
  • Range joint passively and actively to evaluate for stability
  • Examine joints above and below the ankle
  • Perform anterior drawer test (positive exam suggests torn ATFL)
  • Always palpate entire length of fibula to rule-out Maisonneuve Fracture (fibulotibialis ligament tear)
    • Perform a crossed-leg test to detect syndesmotic injury
  • Evaluate integrity of Achilles tendon (Thompson test)
  • Palpate midfoot and base of 5th metatarsal for tenderness

Differential Diagnosis

Other Ankle Injuries

Distal Leg Fractures

Foot and Toe Fractures





Weber A Oblique
Weber B Oblique
Weber B AP
Weber C Oblique
Weber C AP
  • Ottawa Ankle Rules (sen 96-99% for excluding fracture)
    • AP: Best for isolated lateral and medial malleolar fractures
    • Oblique (mortise)
      • Best for evaluating for unstable fracture or soft tissue injury
      • At a point 1 cm proximal to tibial plafond space between tib/fib should be ≤6mm
    • Lateral: Best for posterior malleolar fractures
  • Consider proximal tib/fib films and talus fractures

Classification (Danis-Weber System)

  • System based on level of the fibular fracture and characterizes stability of fracture
  • Tibial plafond and the two malleoli is referred to as the ankle "mortise" (or talar mortise)

Type A

  • Fibula fracture below ankle joint/distal to plafond
    • Medial malleolus often fractured
    • Tibiofibular syndesmosis intact
    • Usually stable: occasionally requires ORIF

Type B

  • Fibula fracture at the level of the ankle joint/at the plafond
    • Can extend superiorly and laterally up fibula
    • Tibiofibular syndesmosis intact or only partially torn
    • No widening of the distal tibiofibular articulation
    • Medial malleolus may be fracture
    • Possible instability
      • Use gravity or weight bearing stress X-rays to determine stability [1]

Type C

  • Fibula fracture above the level of the ankle joint/proximal to plafond
    • Tibiofibular syndesmosis disrupted with widening of the distal tibiofibular articulation
    • Medial malleolus fracture
    • Unstable: requires ORIF

Management & Disposition

General Fracture Management

General Ankle Fracture

  • Determined by stability of fracture:
    • Stable, nondisplaced, isolated malleolar fracture: Splint or cast, early wt bearing, RICE
    • Unstable or displaced fracture: Requires ORIF, ortho consult, reduce and splint

Isolated lateral malleolar fracture

  • If stable (see Weber classification) treat like severe Ankle Sprain
  • Signs of instability:
    • Displacement >3mm
    • Associated medial malleolus fracture
    • Signs of medial (deltoid) ligament disruption such as medial swelling, ecchymosis, or TTP
    • Widening of medial clear space (suggests deltoid ligament injury)

Isolated medial or posterior malleolar fracture

  • Must rule-out other injuries
  • If non-displaced, isolated:

Lateral malleolar fracture with deltoid injury OR bimalleolar OR trimalleolar fracture

Bimalleolar fracture and right ankle dislocation on X-ray (anteroposterior). Both the end of the fibula (1) and the tibia (2) are broken and the malleolar fragments (arrow: medial malleolus, arrowhead: lateral malleolus) are displaced.

See Also

External Links


  1. Tips for Managing Weber B Ankle Fractures By Joseph Noack, MD; and Spencer Tomberg, MD. ACEP Now April 14, 2020