Comprehensive Orthopedic Care: Fracture of the Calcaneal

Comprehensive Orthopedic Care: Fracture of the Calcaneal

A broken foot is serious, but perhaps the most serious is a fracture of the calcaneal: the large bone that forms the foundation of the rear part of the foot, more commonly known as the heel bone. This bone has a thin, hard, outer shell covering softer spongy bone on the inside.  A break here causes the bone to collapse and become fragmented, lending to the seriousness of this kind of injury.

How do they occur?

A calcaneal fracture is usually the result of a traumatic event such as:

  • Falls: Common in falls with sudden impact, like from a ladder or a slip on some black ice.
  • Auto-accidents: Typically in a head on collision, especially if the person braces their foot on the floorboard before impact.
  • Sports injury: Heel fractures are more common in long-distance runners and can become worse with the stress of the foot hitting the ground over time.
  • Osteoporosis: Individuals with osteoporosis are more easily prone to breaks as their bones are fragile.

Calcaneal fractures can also occur in conjunction with other types of injuries, such as an ankle sprain.

How are they Diagnosed?

Signs and symptoms of heel fracture include:

  • Severe pain
  • Bruising
  • Unable to bear weight
  • Swelling
  • Heel deformity

Diagnosis of a calcaneus fracture involves a thorough examination which usually requires an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis and determine the severity of the fracture. In some cases, an MRI or CT scan may be required.

Receiving proper treatment requires a correct diagnosis on the type of fracture. There are several different types of calcaneal fractures that may occur, including:

  • Intra-articular fractures involve damage to the cartilage between the joints. These are considered the most serious type of heel fracture.
  • Avulsion fractures are when a sliver of bone is split off from the calcaneus due to pulling from the Achilles tendon or another ligament.
  • Multiple fracture fragments, also known as a crushed heel injury.
  • Stress fractures, resulting from overuse.

How are they Treated?

Some fractures can be treated without surgery by simply utilizing the following:

  • RICE: Rest, ice, compression and elevation.
  • Immobilization: placing the foot in a cast to keep the bone from moving.

Traumatic fractures often involve surgery which may include:

  • Percutaneous screw fixation: This surgery involves reducing, realigning, and attaching fractured pieces of bone with metal plates and screws.
  • Open reduction and internal fixation: Metal screws are used to attach larger fractured bones.

Recovery time can be lengthy, involving physical therapy to help regain strength and restore function.

If you have recently suffered a foot or heel injury or calcaneal fracture, contact us today. We will diagnose and properly treat your injury to get you onto the road to recovery.