Broken Foot (cont.)
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- What is the structure of the foot?
- What are the causes of a broken foot?
- What are the symptoms of a broken foot?
- When should I call the doctor for foot pain?
- How is a broken foot diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for a broken foot?
- What are the complications of a broken foot?
- Can a broken foot be prevented?
- Broken Foot At A Glance
- Find a local Doctor in your town
What is the treatment for a broken foot?
First aid at home may include RICE (rest, ice, elevation, and compression) and weight bearing as tolerated. If the decision is made to seek medical care, this regimen may still be considered once the patient is discharged from the hospital to go home.
The treatment of a foot fracture depends upon what bone is broken, the mechanism of injury, the underlying medical condition of the patient, and whether the fracture is open (the skin is broken) or closed (the skin is intact).
Broken toes are often treated symptomatically, with the injured toe "buddy taped" to an adjacent normal toe. It may be helpful to place cotton balls or other absorbent material between the toes to prevent dampness and skin injury. A stiff-soled shoe and crutches may be needed to help with walking. Healing should occur with in 4 to 6 weeks.
Fractures of the great toe that are displaced may require surgery to allow better healing. An orthopedic surgeon or podiatrist may choose this option, but often that decision is made electively a few days after the injury.
Open fractures of the toe usually require good wound cleansing to prevent infection. At the same time the health care practitioner will often explore the wound, looking for foreign objects and evaluate the condition of deep structures like tendons, looking for lacerations.
Metatarsal fractures often heal nicely with conservative care, meaning no operation is needed. The foot is wrapped for comfort to decrease swelling and placed in an orthopedic post-op or Reese shoe.
- First metatarsal fractures that are aligned nicely may be treated with a
post-op shoe and avoidance of weight bearing. If the fracture is displaced,
meaning the bone fragments do not align, an operation to pin or plate the
fracture may be considered.
- Second, third, and fourth metatarsal fractures tend to heal nicely with an
ace wrap for support and weight bearing as tolerated. Stress fractures usually
involve the second and third metatarsals.
- Fifth metatarsal fractures are of two types. If the fracture is at the very
base of the bone, then treatment is the same as the other metatarsal fractures.
- Jones fractures of the fifth metatarsal shaft have a non healing
(non-union) rate of up to 50% and often require surgery to fix the fracture.
- Lisfranc fracture dislocation injuries require surgery for repair.
- The treatment of talus fractures depends upon where in the bone the fracture
- The top of the talus is dome-shaped and is part of the ankle joint, fitting
into the base of the tibia or shin bone. This fracture may not be easily
identified and sometimes can be mistaken for a non-healing
ankle sprain. The
treatment is rest and avoidance of weight bearing.
- Talar neck fractures often have difficulty healing because of poor blood
supply. Surgery may be required if the bone is displaced, otherwise no weight
bearing in a cast for 2-3 months may be required.
- A Shepherd fracture involves the
posterior, or back part, of the talus and
is seen in athletes who dance or kick. The treatment is immobilization in a
- Lateral process fractures of the talus are becoming more common with the
increased numbers of snowboarding injuries. Treatment includes no weight bearing
in a cast.
- Calcaneus fractures require significant force to occur and are associated with a marked amount of swelling and pain. An orthopedic surgeon or podiatrist is often consulted emergently to decide whether surgery is needed to stabilize the fracture. The health care practitioner will also look for associated injuries of the ankle, knee, hip, and lumbar spine.
Immobilization of the fractured foot will help with pain control. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can be helpful with pain control by decreasing inflammation in the area. Narcotic pain medication may also be prescribed if needed.
Rest, ice, and elevation will help limit swelling and decrease pain.
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