Calcaneus (heel bone) Fractures

Fractures of the heel bone, or calcaneus, can be disabling injuries. They most often occur during high-energy collisions — such as a fall from height or a motor vehicle crash. Because of this, calcaneus fractures are often severe and may result in long-term problems.

Symptoms

  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Heel deformity
  • Inability to put weight on the heel or walk

In some minor calcaneus fractures, the pain is not enough to stop you from walking, but you may limp. Your foot and ankle may feel unstable, and you will walk differently.

Treatment

If the pieces of broken bone have not been displaced by the force of the injury, you may not need surgery. Casting or some other form of immobilization may be an option. This will keep the broken ends in proper position while they heal. You will not be able to put any weight on your foot until the bone is completely healed. This may take 6 to 8 weeks, maybe longer.

If the bones have shifted out of place (displaced), you may need surgery. Our orthopedic trauma surgeons at Emory use these surgical options to treat calcaneus fractures:

  • Open reduction and internal fixation
  • Percutaneous screw fixation

Recovery

Whether you have surgery or not, your rehabilitation will be very similar. How long it takes to return to daily activities varies with different types of fractures. It depends on the severity of the injury. Some patients can begin weight-bearing activities a few weeks after injury or surgery; some patients may need to wait 3 or more months before putting any kind of weight on the heel. Our trauma specialists will help determine the best plan for your fracture.

Talus Fracture

The talus is a small bone that sits between the heel bone (calcaneus) and the two bones of the lower leg (tibia and fibula). Most injuries to the talus result from motor vehicle accidents, although falls from heights also can injure the talus.

Symptoms

  • Acute pain
  • An inability to bear weight
  • Considerable swelling and tenderness

Treatment

A talar fracture that is left untreated or that doesn't heal properly will create problems for you later. Your foot function will be impaired, you will develop arthritis and chronic pain, and the bone may collapse.

Most fractures of the talus require surgery to minimize later complications. The orthopaedic surgeon will realign the bones and use metal screws to hold the pieces in place. If there are small fragments of bone, they may be removed and bone grafts used to restore the structural integrity of the joint. After the surgery, your foot will be put in a cast for six to eight weeks and you will not be able to put any weight on the foot for at least three months.

Recovery

After surgery, your foot will be put in a cast for six to eight weeks and you will not be able to put any weight on the foot for at least three months. As the bones begin to heal, your doctor may order X-rays or a magnetic resonance image (MRI) to check on the healing. Even if the bones heal properly, you may still experience arthritis in later years, but you should be able to return to your activities of daily living within 6 months to a year.