Fractured tibia and fibula - Lower leg injuries

The tibia and fibula form the bones of the lower leg. The tibia is a weight bearing bone and is often fractured as a result of a fracture of the fibula; this occurs because the pressure and force is transferred to the tibia.

Types of fracture

Fractures of the lower leg are categorised as open or closed; this refers to whether the bone has broken through the skin (open) or not (closed). The majority of tibial fractures are open as the tissue over the tibia is relatively thin.

Causes of fractures in the lower leg

The most common causes of fractures in the lower leg are related to trauma; this is usually caused by road accidents, sport or falling heavily or awkwardly. Medical conditions such as cancer and osteoporosis can also increase the risk of bone fractures.

Symptoms of lower leg fractures

Some fractures are easy to identify because they lead to physical deformity of the lower leg; if the fracture is open a portion of bone will be visible through the skin. Other symptoms also include swelling, severe pain and bruising. People who have broken one or both of the bones in the lower leg will usually not be able to move the affected leg.

Treating lower leg fractures

In most cases broken bones in the lower leg will require surgery followed by a long period of immobilisation; this is usually done using a plaster cast. During this time, the patient will use crutches to prevent the leg from bearing weight. Once recovery is underway, physiotherapy will usually be used to gradually increase strength in the affected leg and encourage a greater range of movement.

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