Removal of external fixator - scared

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I fell over on the ice at the end of Feb and had a severe spiral fracture to my tibia with also a couple of other breaks to it and my fibula! Had to have emergency surgery because I developed Acute Compartment Syndrome and was at risk of loosing my fit and/or leg. I then had an external fixator fitted on March 6th and finally today it looks like I am getting it removed on August 9th!! This is after the goal post has been moved several times which completely messed with my head. Doesn’t help that I am a “woman of a certain age” and prone to crying at the drop of a hat especially in the last few weeks!

I have been minimal weight bearing for the last 8 weeks which has been really hard, although not painful. I have lost so much muscle in that thigh and calf it’s untrue!

My question (finally!!) is how painful is it going to be once I get the boot on, I have not had any movement in my ankle for 5 and a half months and have no idea what to expect. I am realistic that I have a long road ahead but would just like to hear from anyone else who’s been through something similar. Thanks 😃

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8 Replies

  • Posted

    I just had my cast removed after having ankle surgery June 13th I was non weight bearing for 6 weeks after my cast was removed my ankle was extremely Steph And I was barely able to even move it I was place in an air cast ankle brace I was not placed in a Boot and told to wait there as tolerated which was very Painful so painful I decided to go on Amazon and buy a boot when the boat came I tried it on and the trick is that you have to put your foot in a 90? angle now you've been non weight bearing for 5 months that's going to be painful even for me it was pretty painful more painful with a boo than the ankle brace so I'm returning my boot today and sticking with a brace I think your biggest obstacle in wearing the blue will be putting it in that 90? angle that it needs to be and also the bottom of my heel is about the only pain I have at the moment while I walk because your heel in the bottom of your foot get so used to U not walking on it it hurts any pressure you put it's been 3 days since I've been walking and I'm still using both of my crutches good luck to you I feel your pain

    • Posted

      Thanks so much for your reply.

      Totally crazy but I was dreading them saying another 4 weeks in the frame and now I’m scared of what I’m facing in the boot! Emotions have been up and down so much in the last 5 and a half months. I guess the hard work really starts when it all comes off and I have to learn to walk😫

  • Posted

    I did not have the same injury as you but I was also a woman of a certain age, perhaps older.  At 4 weeks I got out of my toe to knee high NWB cast and was put into a boot that also was from my toes and came up to my knee with my foot at a right angle to my leg.  I was to wear the boot day and night and the problem I had with it was that it hurt so much I couldn't sleep and found the trouble was with me because I pulled the boot straps too tight.  Since I was able to remove the boot while seated in a recliner I did some exercises.  I did point and flex, ankle circles, left and right movement, and sole of foot turned in and out.  After the discovery with the too tight straps all was fine and after another 4 weeks I was able to go into an orthopedic foot/ankle brace and with a walker start to bear some weight on that foot for another 4 weeks.  Best of luck to you in your recovery. 

  • Posted

    Hi, I do understand the fear of whats to come. I think that even when not necessarily a good siutation i.e. external fixator or cast we can get sort of used to it and as you have had the external fixator for such a long time the change is going to be very different for you. Knowing what I now know though going through my broken ankle I think it is a good thing for you as it means you are progressing in the right direction.

    I know it is easy to say (people said it to me all the time) but this is a positive thing and a good step to recovery.

    With regards movement of the ankle I can guess that your achilles tendon is going to be stiff and the joint too after little moment. But these you can work on to get the movement back. I wasn't sure when I started physio as could only move my ankle about 1/2cm but I have tried to do the stretching as much a possible and now am at about nearly 2inches I think, still more to do. The stretching isn't very comfortable but I think that if you keep at it it will get there. I try and think of it along the lines of these are not bones so they are not fixed they are muscles and tendons so they are designed to be stretched and moved. It may take a bit of time but the more stretching the move movement you get.

    With regards pain, I think being honest and hopefully not (unkind) you are going to have some and I was advised to start the pain meds as soon as I started the physio and to be honest I have had extremely painful sessions....really really painful but for me the difference has been that when my leg is released by the physio or me doing a stretch the pain goes which makes the difference. Any this is (in a strange way) what I would call good pain....

    Also, not sure of your options around physio but it sounds like you will need some. My physio is very good and considering I have trust issues (my poor suffering wife can confirm that ;-( she is perfect in every way and very tolerant!)  the physio is very good and I trust what she does/says even if I then worry about it afterwards I know she is doing her best to help me recover.

    On the physio side, she has recently got me into a swimming pool and as someone else said on another post it is recommended and I definitely second that. I have only had one session and it was very good and did make it easier.

    Also as you say its a long road ahead and lets be honest it is but at least its the road to recovery :-) you are going i  the right direction!!

    Use that fear, conquer it, there are lots of fantastic people on here who will help and boost you up and provide reassurance and thoughts that can help!

    I have found it hugely helpful when I was in a deep dark pit not seeing any light at the end of the tunnel!!

    Considering what you have been though I think you sound like you are doing really well and the next stage while still may be tough has got to be better, it could be like an element of freedom without the fixator!

    Anyway enough ramble from me!

    I wish you the best and will be thinking of you during your recovery, and hoping/praying for full recovery!

    • Posted

      Sorry forgot to add...

      Not sure if it is recommended for your type of injury but resistance bands can be used to gradually increase the strengthening. I bought a pack of 6 each with different levels of resistence which I have found to be very helpful for my ankle, just a thought.

      Also I and again different injuries but I have found that sometimes I have limited movement after walking around for a bit so I often sit/lay down with my leg up to reduce the swelling and then do the stretching/exercising.

      Hope you have a good day!

    • Posted

      Thanks Freddy for the reply.

      Will def look into the resistance bands. Already got my pain meds in order ready as I have been warned. Also my physio has warned me that I’m not going to like him very much soon!

      It’s crazy how your emotions are so all over the place. So looking forward to getting this bloody thing off but now so scared! I’m sure those emotions will hit bigger and deeper troughs of despair over the months but I usually cope by having a rant or a cry and then the next day is a new one to start afresh. I’m sure once I’ve got more to occupy my mind it will be easier. Doing nothing gives you too much time to worry about the smallest things!

      How’s things going for you? Hope you are finding things are getting easier.

      Good luck x

    • Posted

      Very nicely put.  I agree with you about therapy in water.  Doing physical therapy in water is good because you have the resistance of the water and easier because you have the buoyancy help of the water.  More bang for your buck with less effort.  Great comment about a tolerant spouse.  Mine too.  Don't ya just love them?

    • Posted

      I definitely agree with the emotions all over the place. I have found it a lot more settled since getting more mobile but I think it is the change that does it for me.

      I think that whatever happened for someone to end with the break is traumatic and some feel it more than others depending on what happened and many other factors. During recovery as things change you can get used to the change therefore relax a bit but when the time to change comes e.g. cast removal and getting the airboot it can be hard to process perhaps subconsciously as it brings backs the emotions from the initial trauma/accident.

      Anyway enough of my rambles.

      I am going well thanks. I am anxious about getting around without the boot, possible because of the above thoughts.. but getting there.

      I am generally ok around the house it is getting out of the house without the boot that I feel the most anxious and I have been told to stop using the boot which I am doing ok with.

      What affects me the most is the occasional pain/soreness where I had the operation which sparks the anxiety but trying to press through as I think a lot is in my head!

      I have been told the wound is now better so don't have to go back for any more appointments there so now just waiting for confirmation on whether I need to see the consultant... then it is just physio which is going well.

      Although now I am part time back at work and can get around much better I am feeling much more frustration over things I can't do so I think this is the stage where the patience is really required so I don't push it too far as the other day I think I slightly overdid it as had more pain but after a rest it stopped!

      Hope you have a good day today!


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