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What is a Fibula Fracture?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2016
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A fibula fracture is a cracking or breakage of the fibula, one of the two bones that comprise the lower leg. It may result from a direct blow to the fibula, or may be caused by an injury of the ankle or a nearby muscle or ligament. A fibula fracture usually presents symptoms such as pain and swelling, and is usually diagnosed through physical examination and imaging tests. This injury can take several weeks to heal, and treatment usually involves pain medication, rest, ice and heat application, and in some cases, crutches or immobilization. In severe cases, surgery or physical therapy may be necessary.

The lower leg is made up of two bones: the fibula and the tibia. Found at the outer part of the lower leg, the fibula is the smaller of these two bones. Due to its position and larger size, the tibia bears much more body weight than the fibula. Consequently, a fibula fracture is far less common than a tibia fracture.

Fractures of the fibula are possible, however. This bone may be completely broken into two or more pieces, or may merely sustain a crack, a condition known as a stress fracture. Common causes of fibula fracture include sports injuries, falls, and automobile accidents. Often, a complete fibula fracture is caused by a direct blow to the fibula, while fibular stress fractures are a side effect of an injury of the ankle or a nearby muscle or ligament.

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Normally, a fibular fracture causes moderate to severe pain. The injured individual may be unable to put pressure on his lower leg, and he may experience nausea or headaches. Additionally, the affected leg may swell, and the nearby skin may turn a red or purple hue. If the fibula is totally broken, displaced pieces of bone may cause the lower leg to appear misshapen.

Those who suspect they have sustained a fibula fracture should visit a medical care facility. To diagnose this injury, a physician will likely begin by performing a physical examination of the affected leg. In many cases, she will confirm that a fracture has occurred with an imaging exam, usually an X-ray.

Healing time for a fibula fracture depends on the severity of the injury, but often takes around four to six weeks. During that time, the injured individual will likely need to take pain medication, rest the affected leg, and apply ice and heat to the fibula. While fibular fractures rarely necessitate a fixed cast, the injured individual may temporarily need to use crutches while walking, or may be advised to wear a removable cast. Very severe fibular fractures may require surgery or a course of physical therapy.

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