Calcaneus Fracture – Broken Heel Bone

What is a calcaneus fracture?

The calcaneus, or heel bone, may be fractured as the result of high-impact external forcing – such as a car crash or fall from height, when the body weight is placed quickly or violently on the heel bone. This type of injury can be incredibly painful and debilitating, and if left untreated may cause significant future problems. Deformity and widening of the foot may result.

Symptoms of a heel bone fracture are similar to other acute injuries of the foot and ankle: bruising, pain, swelling and difficulty walking or bearing weight may all occur. In some cases, instability or deformity may also be apparent.

How is a heel bone fracture treated?

The calcaneus (heel bone) and talus form the subtalar joint which aids the foot side to side in walking.

Among all foot fractures, calcaneus fractures are generally quite rare, accounting for fewer than one percent of all broken foot bones. Treatment for the fracture may depend on its severity, including the number of fractures, size and displacement of bone fragments, and injuries to soft tissue (cartilage surfaces) surrounding the bone.

A foot and ankle doctor at Campbell Clinic will conduct a visual examination of the injury in the office and will also order an X-ray to determine the severity of the break. An MRI or CT scan may also be necessary. For small breaks with no instability, the doctor may immobilize your foot with a cast, splint or boot. Routine follow-up visits will help determine how long immobilization is necessary, but 6-8 weeks is typical for a full recovery.

If bones have shifted (displacement), surgery may be necessary. Surgery will help return bones to their normal placement and hasten healing. Patients should be careful to remain compliant with their physicians orders to avoid complications such as infection or wound healing problems. For several days after surgery you’ll need to elevate and immobilize the foot.

A physician may use a screw fixation to return bones to their normal placement and hold them together during healing.

An open reduction and internal fixation is another approach that allows the surgeon to reduce, or reposition, the displaced bones into their normal position. This procedure requires an open incision where the bones are held together using metal plates, wires or screws.

Post-surgery, a patient will undergo physical therapy, immobilization of the foot and/or a limitation on weight bearing, and pain management through the use of anti-inflammatory medications.