When you break a bone in your foot or ankle, we say you’ve sustained a fracture. But there are several different types of fractures. And your recovery time will depend on your fracture type.
If you have a non-displaced fracture, that means your bone has not moved and your break is clean. With this kind of injury, you’re likely to spend at least four weeks with some form of immobilization. That could mean a cast, walking boot, crutches or something similar. But you won't be putting weight on that foot for a month or so.
Now, there’s another type of fracture whose treatment is more complicated. And that's a displaced fracture. But what is a displaced fracture? Let’s take a closer look at what happens in your body when your fracture is displaced. Then we’ll explore the ways we can treat this type of injury.
What is a Displaced Fracture? And What Will it Mean for Recovery?
If you're diagnosed with a displaced fracture, it means that your bones have broken into two or more pieces.
(When that bone breaks into three pieces, or more, we call it a comminuted fracture. More typically located in your long arm or leg bones, these types of fractures are usually the result of a very strong impact.) Whether displaced or comminuted, these types of breaks make the ends of your bones no longer line up with one another. Obviously, this makes it more difficult for your bones to heal. So, without some kind of intervention, your bones could become misaligned. And that could lead to many complications.
For that reason, if you have a displaced fracture, we'll almost certainly have to treat your injury with surgery. Unfortunately, this also means you will be facing a longer and more painful recovery period. So that’s the bad news. But there are some silver linings! Because we've seen some positive new developments in diagnosing and treating complex injuries like displaced fractures! And I'm going to tell you how those developments can improve your recovery.
How is a Displaced Fracture Diagnosed?
The only way we can determine the type of fracture you’re dealing with, is by giving you a toe, foot or ankle X-ray. But don’t start running to the ER just yet. To make your life easier, we provide in-house x-rays for suspected fractures in my Houston podiatrist office. That's already good news. Because it can save you the hours-long wait times you’d encounter with a trip to the emergency room.
So, we’ve already given you one kernel of positivity to hold onto. Now let’s get to another one. As I said, we'll almost always have to treat displaced fractures with surgery. In severe cases, that surgery will involve inserting pins or screws into your bone. This is the best to keep the pieces of bone together while your fracture heels. And it can also help stabilize the injury.
Of course, these supportive devices are foreign to your body. So, for many people, that also means a second surgery to remove the pins. Otherwise, it means living the rest of your life with foreign materials in your body. But wait, don’t despair: new research is attempting to improve this treatment process as well. And, as always, I'm staying right on top of the research.
Advances in Surgery for Displaced Fractures
When we have to implant metal screws in your bones to support the healing process, things can get messy. Why would a healing item be harmful? Well, when your body detects a foreign object, it will often try to reject its insertion. Plus, since your body isn’t meant to keep metal inside it for long periods of time, you’ll likely need a second surgery to remove the implant even if your body isn’t rejecting the screw. Otherwise, you may develop other health concerns later in life.
Luckily, Austrian physician Klaus Pastl came up with a new invention to combat some of these pesky problems. Called the Shark Screw, it's composed of the hard middle layer of other people’s donated femur material. Remember, the femur (thigh bone) is the longest, strongest and hardest bone in the body. So it’s a smart choice for the backbone (pun intended) of this new invention. And a great way to keep metal out of your healing body.
These SharkScrews are already in use in several hospitals in Austria and Switzerland. And here's what we've learned so far. They never have to be removed from your body. In fact, in about six weeks, the graft becomes incorporated into your own bone!
Building off this discovery, researchers are now working on specialized screws that we can use for jaw and foot surgeries. With advances, we may be able to treat your next foot fracture with a much less invasive surgical process!
Now, the future is a long way off if you've got a broken foot right now. But even if your displaced foot fracture just happened, I hope you’ll take heart in knowing that I stay on top of all the advancements available for fractures. And I offer them to my patients as soon as I feel they are safe and the best treatment option available!
After Displaced Fracture Surgery: Speeding Up Healing
Are you worried about pain during your recovery? We have a new way to reduce pain and speed your healing: Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy, or PRP. We often use this treatment to help your body heal after muskuloskeletal injuries or after surgery. For that reason, choosing PRP after a displaced fracture is a minimally invasive way to reduce pain and shorten your recovery period.
Best of all, PRP is an in-office treatment. After the injection, you'll be able to go home immediately. And, while some people feel irritation and mild pain after PRP, most have zero side effects. Instead, by injecting your own concentrated blood into an injured area, we help your body speed up its own healing process!
Want to make sure your foot fracture is properly diagnosed and treated? And do you want to enjoy the fastest possibly recovery, with as little pain as possible? That's our goal to, but we need to work together. So, give us a call right after hurting your foot. We'll get you x-rayed, diagnose your injury, and come up with a treatment plan that gets you safely back in action in the shortest time possible!