Lateral Malleolus Fracture

A lateral malleolus fracture is a common type of ankle fracture involving the fibula, the smaller bone on the outer part of the lower leg. This injury can result from various incidents, including falls, sports injuries, or car accidents. Understanding the causes, symptoms, imaging and treatment options for a lateral malleolus fracture is important for an effective recovery and prevention of future complications.

What is a Lateral Malleolus Fracture?

A lateral malleolus fracture occurs when there is a break in the lower part of the fibula, just above the ankle joint. This type of fracture can vary in severity from a simple crack to a complete break where the bone is displaced. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential to ensure proper healing and to avoid long-term issues.

Causes of Lateral Malleolus Fractures

**Sports Injuries**

Engaging in sports like basketball, soccer, or skiing increases the risk of a lateral malleolus fracture. Rapid changes in direction, jumping, and landing awkwardly can all lead to this type of injury.

**Falls and Accidents**

Falling from a height or slipping on an uneven surface can cause a lateral malleolus fracture. Additionally, car accidents and other high-impact incidents often result in fractures of the fibula.


Individuals with osteoporosis have weakened bones, making them more susceptible to fractures from minor traumas. This condition is especially common in older adults.

Symptoms of a Lateral Malleolus Fracture

**Pain and Swelling**

One of the primary symptoms of a lateral malleolus fracture is immediate pain and swelling around the ankle. The pain may be severe and worsen with movement or weight-bearing.

**Bruising and Tenderness**

Bruising and tenderness around the fracture site are common. The area may be sensitive to touch, and the bruising can extend to the foot and lower leg.

**Difficulty Walking**

A fractured lateral malleolus can make walking difficult or impossible due to pain and instability. Bearing weight on the injured ankle often exacerbates the discomfort.

Diagnosis of Lateral Malleolus Fractures

**Physical Examination**

A healthcare provider will perform a physical examination to assess the extent of the injury. They will look for signs of swelling, bruising, and deformity.

**Imaging Tests**

X-rays are the most common imaging tests used to diagnose a lateral malleolus fracture. They provide clear images of the bone and can reveal the location and severity of the break. In some cases, a CT scan or MRI may be necessary to get a more detailed view.

Treatment Options for Lateral Malleolus Fractures

**Non-Surgical Treatment**

For less severe fractures where the bone is not displaced, non-surgical treatment may be sufficient. This typically involves immobilizing the ankle with a cast or brace to allow the bone to heal. The patient may also need to use crutches to avoid putting weight on the injured ankle.

**Surgical Treatment**

Surgery may be required for more severe fractures where the bone is displaced or there are multiple breaks. During surgery, the bone fragments are realigned, and metal plates, screws, or rods are used to hold them in place. Post-surgery, the ankle is usually immobilized to ensure proper healing.

Recovery and Rehabilitation

**Rest and Immobilization**

Rest is crucial during the initial phase of recovery. Keeping the ankle immobilized helps the bone heal correctly. Elevating the foot and applying ice can reduce swelling and pain.

**Physical Therapy**

Once the bone has healed sufficiently, physical therapy is important to restore strength and mobility. A physical therapist will guide the patient through exercises to improve range of motion, build strength, and prevent stiffness.

**Gradual Return to Activity**

Returning to normal activities should be gradual to avoid re-injury. Patients are advised to follow their doctor’s recommendations and not rush the process.

When to See a Doctor

If you suspect you have a lateral malleolus fracture, it is essential to seek medical attention promptly. Signs that warrant a visit to the doctor include severe pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty walking. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent complications and promote a faster recovery.


A lateral malleolus fracture is a common injury that can result from various causes, including sports activities, falls, and accidents. Recognizing the symptoms and seeking timely medical attention is important for effective treatment. Whether treated non-surgically or surgically, proper care and rehabilitation are essential to ensure a full recovery.

Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

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