Fractures of the Calcaneus
Heel Bone Fractures
Fractures of the calcaneus, or heel bone, can be severe, painful, and disabling.
The calcaneus, along with the talus bone, comprise the subtalar joint,
which is located below the ankle joint and is essential to inversion /
eversion of the foot. It also forms a joint with the bone on the outside
of the foot (cuboid).
The calcaneus is typically very hard to fracture. In most cases, heel bone
fractures will occur as the result of high-energy impact, such as a fall
or car accident. The heel can be crushed under the weight of the body
and may widen, shorten, or become deformed. Following an injury, patients
will commonly experience pain, swelling, bruising, deformity, and difficulty
walking or putting weight on the heel.
Calcaneus fractures are relatively rare, but they can have severe and devastating
consequences. Fractures can affect alignment of the heel bone and may
also impact the subtalar joint, where it can damage articular cartilage
and cause long-term complications such as arthritis, chronic pain, and
reduced range of motion.
Treating a calcaneus fracture will focus on restoring the normal anatomy
of the heel. In less severe fractures that are stable, nonsurgical treatment
may be an option. Typically, this will involve the use of a cast, brace,
or splint to protect and immobilize the ankle and foot while it heals.
Patients may wear an immobilization device for 6 to 8 weeks, and should
not bear weight on the affected foot until it is fully healed. Physical
therapy during recovery can help improve mobility and strengthen supporting muscles.
Because pieces of broken bone are often displaced by the force of an injury,
calcaneus fractures often require surgery. Surgical treatment can also
decrease risk of future complications, including loss of motion, foot
impairment, and chronic arthritis. Surgery may also be required in cases
of open fractures, where the fracture site is exposed or bone fragments
stick out through the skin.
Surgical approaches will focus on restoring the normal shape of the heel
bone and stabilizing the foot so it can heal in the correct position.
Depending on the type of calcaneus fracture, the following procedures
may be used:
- Percutaneous screw fixation – When fractures involve large fragments
of bone, these pieces can be manipulated into the correct position without
the need for a large incision. Screws will then be used to hold the fracture together.
- Open reduction and internal fixation – Displaced bones in the heel
are repositioned into correct alignment through an open incision. They
are then held in place using screws, metal places, or wires.
Recovery will vary from patient to patient, but may take weeks or up to
three months before weight bearing can begin. Patients will work to improve
motion, strength, and mobility through physical therapy and a gradual
return to weight bearing and walking.
Torrance Memorial Physician Network
Our physicians at Torrance Memorial Physician Network offer comprehensive
and personalized care to patients throughout the South Bay. If you have
questions regarding calcaneus fracture treatment or surgery, call us to
request an appointment with our foot and ankle specialist.