This injury is a fracture at the base of the tibia (the largest of the two bones in the lower leg). Pilon fractures involve the weight-bearing surface of the tibia, and typically occur just above the ankle. In many cases, when the tibia is fractured, the thinner bone in the lower leg (called the fibula) is also broken.
Pilon fractures are caused by a severe impact trauma to the feet and legs that forces the talus bone of the ankle upward, where it strikes the base of the tibia with excessive force. This type of high-energy impact often occurs when a person falls from a height and tries to land on his feet. Such an injury commonly causes pilon fractures of both legs. Other common causes of pilon fractures include automobile crashes, motorcycle crashes and skiing accidents.
Symptoms of pilon fracture include severe pain and an inability to bear weight on the leg. Other symptoms may include deformity of the ankle, swelling, bruising and tenderness. In cases where pilon fractures result from a fall from a height, spinal compression fractures are also commonly present.
A pilon fracture is a medical emergency that requires urgent treatment. Treatment options depend on the severity of the injury. Some pilon fractures may be treated with a splint or cast, rest, and anti-inflammatory medication. Severe fractures require surgery to realign and stabilize the bones.