Tibia and fibula fracture progress

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Hi all,

I was looking through some of the stories posted by others and thought of joining the forums to share mine.

In mid Februrary (week 1): I slipped on a patch of ice outside this winter and fractured my tibia and fibula. My foot went towards the outside while my body was going the opposite way. I remember looking at my foot abnormally twisted towards the outside  slightly and I was in excruciating pain. I rushed to the hospital in an ambulance and had xrays done. It showed that the twisting motion of the ankle caused a torsional fracture of my tibia just above the ankle with what looked like the pilon in 3 or 4 pieces and fracture of the fibula . just below the knee. My leg and foot were swelling up as I waited for an orthopedic surgeon.

After two nights at the hospital, the surgeon finally saw me to tell me I was going to get operated. However, it turned out I could not have an ORIF right away as my leg was too swollen and I had formed a blister fracture just over the tibial fracture area (learned something new!). So instead in this first surgery, the surgeon installed an external fixator (also a device I did not know existed!) and sent me home.

Week 3: I had an appointment scheduled with the surgeon to have a look at my swelling and blister fracture. I just had high expectations that I was going to get an ok for the ORIF surgery but guess what? My leg was still a bit swollen, but most importantly, my skin was in no shape ready for an ORIF due the fracture blister which had not healed. I was so devastated. Anyone who has had an external fixator will tell you how difficult and painful it is to manage. On top of having to go for weekly blood tests, bandage replacements and disinfecting. Anyways, it is at that point on my way back home from this appointment that I understood that this will be a very long road ahead and I have to be patient... the most ever.

Week 5: Following the above appointment, I go back for the same evaluation - am I now ready for ORIF? The surgeon checks and says yes! I was so happy, after almost 4 weeks, this external fixator was going to come off, so the ORIF can be performed and I can start the "real" healing process... another lesson I learned: Progress will come in small tiny pieces.

Another sign of improvement was that the external fixator did what it was supposed to do as the surgeon said: It supposedly helped form the articular surface at the ankle joint closer to normal. He expressed how critical that is for the articulation.

Two days later, I had my ORIF (screws in the tibia's pilon area and a plate with screws on the tibia) with a hard cast and I was sent home after one night.

Week 6 (now): it has been 1 week since the ORIF surgery.

I will have this hard cast for 6 weeks, so 5 weeks to go!

Obviously, the whole time since the injury, I have been non-weight bearing on the injured leg and it will be the case for an additional 6 weeks after the cast removal as the surgeon said.

I never really had a good look at my xrays while at the hospital, especially after the ORIF. So I will be visiting the hospital this week to have copies so I can have a look at whats new in my leg!

Today is the first day since my injury and 1 week after the ORIF that I did not take any of the painkillers I have been on at home. I do feel some pressure inside the cast, but I wouldn't qualify this as pain. Probably will take some at night before sleep as that is when it tends to hurt more.

This week I am also trying to move around the house in crutches a bit more. I find sometimes I cannot sleep at night, if I am not tired enough!

Another thing I have noticed is that my complete injured leg from my thigh down to the knee has gotten so weak. I weighed myself and I lost almost 10 lbs - must be all the muscle mass in the leg?

I am looking forward to the physiotherapy stage so I can start making more due progress!

While I had the external fixator, I was doing some upper body resistance band workouts on a chair. I believe I can start doing this again. I was going to the gym 3-4 times a week before my injury, so I really miss that too.

The family and friends' support I have received is a tremendous blessing... It would not be possible to keep up, as I can't help my wife much, with 2 young kids and all their school and sports activities.

Thanks for reading my story. If you want to share any questions, insight, advice, please don't be shy!

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6 Replies

  • Posted

    good to post stories like this...useful for others to compare. keep up your physio and good luck n yr ongoing progress. my injury much less serious..fibula bfoken 31/12/17. Getting there but still nowhere near back to normal

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    • Posted

      Thanks rfoot for reading and your wishes. Wish you a full  recovery.

      What part of the fibula did you fracture?

      My fibula was fractured just below the knee. Not sure if it was partial or complete fracture (will have to confirm with the x-rays!) but no plate or screw was installed. The surgeon said the cast will take care of it in my case. But I will have to confirm with my ORIF x-rays. 

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  • Posted

    they said it was a "b" fracture. Anyway, it was at the ankle. I understand fibula is "easier" for patient as fibula is not a weightbearing bone.

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  • Posted

    Update: I got my post ORIF X-rays finally. 

    A 6.5 inch long plate on the inside of the leg (on the tibia) that extends all to the bottom end of the tibia with 13 screws. The articulation looks good to me but I’m no doctor... I remain positive that I’ll have a successful recovery. 

    It’s been less than 2 weeks since the ORIF surgery and I’m just taking acetaminophen (no more morphine) mainly at night before sleep. That’s a sign of good progress I hope. 

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  • Posted

    Hello thank you Joe,for sharing. I slipped on some ice in front of a building and fell to the concrete.on 3/13/18. I went by ambo to ER. I had ORIF surgery a few hours later. I go see the ortho surgeon that fixed it tomorrow. I am anxious to see my xrays,all I know is I had a distal displaced tib-fib fracture. I have a metal rod, 2 screws by the knee,and 3 at the ankle. I was woozy,but I recall him telling me its bad. Got a CAM boot 2nd day post op when they sent me hone. It felt like it was 50lbs dragging my leg down. It is still very annoying,though not as heavy now that swelling has gone down. I'm down to 1 or 2 pain pills a day. I'm non weight bearing for now,they say just ice,elevate,and keep the boit on,even to sleep, a complete drag. I take it off time to time to do ROM. The swelling in my foot and the sensitivity on top of my foot was so vad that 1st week,but ive been touching it to desentize. Some random pin and needle jabs.....I hate this.....its humbling to depend on my husband so heavily, I feel like a burden. Some days,I cry all the time,then,I remember my PT says,it gets better,set small goals.

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    • Posted

      Thank you cryssy for sharing.

      I wish you a fast recovery!

      It sounds like you are showing signs of recovery already. I hope you gain energy quickly and not feel the weight of the boot as much. 

      How long will you be non weight bearing? I've read that it is so very important not to walk on it prematurely but duration all depends on your specific case.

      Good thing about the boot is you can take it take it off for shower, PT, or when you have discomfort. 

      Currently, I have this cast for just over 2 weeks and some days are a bit more painful with nerves acting up (pins and needles jabs like you said) and other days I feel more comfortable.

      I couldn't agree more about what your PT said about setting small goals. This recovery process is most defenitely about one small sign of progress at a time! 

      Dont be shy to post an update. I will too when this cast. Ones off in 4 weeks!

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