Pilon fractures usually occur when the weight-bearing bones in the ankle are pushed into the leg bones, causing the bones to break at the ankle. Most injuries are the result of a high-impact injury. However, diseases that cause bones to weaken, such as osteoporosis, can cause pilon fractures to occur from lower-impact events. Due to the nature of the impact, pilon fractures may impact both legs.
Signs of a pilon fracture may include extreme pain in the lower leg or ankle, bruising, swelling, and inability to put weight on the injured leg. The ankle may be deformed or crooked. If falling from a height is the cause of a pilon fracture, spinal compression fractures may also occur.
In order to diagnose a pilon fracture, physicians will look at symptoms and the condition of the leg and ankle during a physical exam. Imaging tests such as x-rays will also be required to verify the type of fracture and its severity.
A pilon fracture is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. If the injury is minimal, splints or casts may be effective. However, most pilon fractures require surgery to realign and stabilize the bones.