Health A-Z

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Diagnosis

After reviewing your symptoms, the doctor will want to know:

  • How and when your injury happened

  • Whether swelling and bruising developed immediately (often a sign of a more serious injury) or several hours later

  • Whether you had difficulty putting weight on your ankle immediately after the injury happened

In addition, your doctor will review your medical history, especially any previous injuries to your ankle, foot or lower leg. If you have symptoms of an open fracture, the doctor also will want to know the approximate date of your last tetanus shot.

The doctor will examine your ankle, foot and lower leg. During this examination, the doctor will check for swelling, deformity, abrasions, bruising and soreness along the lower part of your tibia and fibula, especially at the medial malleolus and lateral malleolus (bony knobs). The doctor also will gently press and feel parts of your injured ankle to determine whether there are any points of extreme tenderness that can help to identify the site of a fracture. He or she also will compare range of motion of the injured ankle with the normal joint movement in your uninjured ankle. After a significant injury, your pulse, foot movements and skin sensation will be checked to see if there are signs of artery or nerve damage.

If the results of your physical examination suggest that that you have a fractured ankle, your doctor will order X-rays to confirm the diagnosis.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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