Broken Heel Bone? You Have A Calcaneus Fracture
Bone fractures in the foot can be debilitating. One of the more severe breaks is known as a calcaneus fracture or a heel bone fracture. Broken heel bones commonly occur during a high-impact trauma, such as a car crash or fall when the heel is crushed under pressure or weight of the body. The heel can widen, shorten and become deformed during a fracture.
In a fall from above, if you land on your feet, your body weight is directed downward onto the heel, driving the heel bone up. In a motor vehicle crash, on the other hand, the foot can be driven up at an angle. In either case, the greater the impact, the more likely the heel bone is to crack into multiple pieces.
Patients with heel bone fractures usually experience moderate to severe pain in the heel, bruising, swelling, deformity of the heel pad, and inability to walk or stand on the injured foot. Minor fractures may be less painful and feel more like a bone bruise although the bone may still have a hairline fracture.
As mentioned, these can be quite severe, and some fractures even push bone fragments into the subtalar joint in the foot. Treatment usually requires surgery to reconstruct the heel bone. Even then, some fractures may lead to long-term complications, which include pain, swelling, loss of mobility and arthritis.
It is important to inform your podiatrist about the manner in which the fracture was sustained so they can prescribe the most effective course of treatment and/or surgery. A careful examination will reveal any skin or tissue damage around the fracture, presence or absence of a pulse at key points around the foot, mobility of toes and sensation on the bottom of the foot, and whether other areas of the foot or ankle may be subsequently injured.
In mild to moderate cases of a heel fracture, there may be nonsurgical treatments available. The most common is immobilization using a cast or splint, which will hold the bone in the proper position as it heals. You can expect to wear a cast for 6 to 8 weeks. You will likely be advised to avoid putting any weight on the foot until the bone is completely healed.
The severity of a heel bone fracture depends on several factors, including the number of bone fragments in the fracture, the size of the fragments, and how far displaced the bone fracture is to its proper place in the foot. For example, the broken ends of a bone may line up fairly close together and in a relatively similar position, whereas other fractures may have bone fragments spaced farther apart or perhaps overlapping. In some situations, the cartilage of the subtalar joint (the joint below the ankle that allows your ankle to move side to side) is injured or impaled by a bone fragment, as well as soft tissues around the heel bone. There are also open heel fractures, characterized by the bone breaking through the skin. Naturally, these take a longer time to heal, and immediate treatment is required to prevent infection.
Keep in mind that while calcaneus fractures are less common than other fractures in the foot and ankle, delaying diagnosis and treatment can be devastating to long-term use of the foot so if you suspect you may have a heel bone fracture, be sure to see a podiatrist right away.
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