My name is Zach and I have been going through recovery from pilon fracture surgery since March 20th 2015. I am here to share my story.
If you have suffered a pilon fracture (also called a tibial plafond fracture) or know someone who has, this can be a site for information exchange on this relatively obscure injury.
A NOTE from Sept 7 2017:
Does anyone want to try moving comments in this blog to a private facebook group? I called it Pilon Fractures Suck
Feel free to post and comment. We can commiserate, share, learn or teach others so that we do not feel as isolated and alone (this injury is so rare that it is hard to find anyone to talk to about it.) Click Here to learn more about the injury. Click here to see recent posts I have made.
How it happened to me:
On March 6th 2015 I embarked on what was to be a three day two night backpacking-by-bike (bikepacking) trip in the deep backcountry of the Ishi Wilderness area in Tehama county. Our first day was to be 20 miles to Black Rock campground, where we would camp for the night.
We arrived at Black Rock deep down in Mill Creek Canyon at about 4:30 PM on a Friday evening, and the sun was shining on the water under the Mill creek bridge and made a swim seem so inviting…so I decided to jump in. Long story short, I jumped just a little too far to the left, and landed on a shallow spot and exploded my ankle. It was the most disappointing experience of my life and I began to wish I could turn back time just 1 minute and re-think my move. Before the pain set in I ate a hand full of Advil and over the next 30 minutes I was helped out of the water and to a picnic bench where I laid for 7 hours until we the good folks from Tehama County Search and Rescue (thanks guys!) finally reached us. I made it to the ER at about 3:45 AM and began to learn just what a mess I made of my ankle joint. Thats where I learned the dreaded term “pilon fracture” and I will never forget it. As far as I can tell, 1% of the public has ever even heard the word. Its such a rare injury.
MAYBE A NEW HOPE
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Hi, August 12th 2019 a day that has forever it seems changed our lives. My husband fell on a ladder on the roof at work. He is a repair guy and he was by himself that day. The only thing he can think is when the ladder slid his leg went under it and his weight came down on it. He only fell about 3 feet. When I met him up at urgent care and we got the x-rays the doctor did not even know what to call it he just said it is the worst break he had ever seen. They proceeded to put him in a boot and send him home with 5mg percocet. I feel like it is worth noting, this was a Monday and we had joked the Friday before about him calling out of work that Monday as we had a special weekend in the game we play. He should have just stayed home! By Tuesday morning his job that is a 30 minute drive needed him to come in apparently. Him signing a piece of paper could not wait I guess. We also went back to urgent care as the 5mg Percocet was doing nothing for his pain. He was given 10 mg which also did pretty much nothing. By the time we got back home after about 5 hours of being gone his leg was swollen to the point of blistering and was leaking fluid. By this time he could not elevate his leg without shooting pain and I can count on 1 hand how many times I have seen him cry and this was one of them. By that evening we ended up going to the E.R. The triage nurses even looked at him and wondered why the urgent care doctor put him in a boot! He should have been splinted from the beginning.
After hours as the E.R. was so busy the doctor came in and she immediately gave him some morphine and toradol it was the only thing that allowed him to elevate his foot. He ended up being admitted and they were able to get the swelling down. Thursday he had an appointment with the trauma orthopedics surgeon and this is where we learned the term pelon fracture. The office sent him down immediately for surgery to have the outer fixation device placed so they could get the swelling down. This was the first time this office has ever done this. After his surgery he said it felt a lot better even if it looked bad! A little more than a week later the swelling was down enough to do the surgery and he had his surgery with internal fixation devices done.
He is now nearing a year out and the reason I am here is we are trying to find people who have had this type of fracture and hear about their recovery. He is still in a significant amount of pain but is working. The only way of him being able to function good is by taking Mobic which is a NSAID that apparently he should have been on for no longer than a week or 2. the doctor had him on it for 4 months. He is now trying to figure out other ways to manage the pain but nothing had worked as well as the Mobic. We are in a place where we are wondering if the gear needs to come out but if what he is feeling is average or normal then we know he just needs to give it more time. If the gear were to be taken out that has a whole new host of complications and a potential break if the bone is weakened. Is pain just his new normal?
Unfortunately yes it’s normal have a painfull walk…the best is deal with the pain without pain killers they destroy your health, and sometimes you need to take them…
The end line is ankle fusion…but you need do have bone quality it takes about 5 years, and it’s not totally necessary to have all hardware remove it depends of the case…my surgeon says take the most time you can if you can live 10 years without fusion live it.
I take lots of bike to have muscle work and I do electric stimulation in the weak muscles…for now I already pass 2 years and it’s painfull sometimes but ok I can walk.
Best regards keep in contact
We can help each others.
I had my injury in July of 2020. I also had the ex fix and then a second surgery . Even though it is going on 2 years post injury, my pain is 24/7 and has affected my life greatly. I really cannot work full time any longer as I am a nurse and on my feet all day. Nothing helps with the pain, I feel like I can also feel the hardware in my leg. It drives me to a point of craziness!
I can so understand everything you are experiencing , I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. All I did to injure myself was taking out my trash one evening and fell.
Things will never be the same again. I also take so much Ibuprofen it is crazy and does zero good anymore.
This is exactly what happened to me!! The same month too! I’ve had most of my hardware removed because of pain but I’m still using a cane as walking is still so painful. Recently had ex rays and ultrasound to see if it’s deteriorated but nothing shows up. Just have to find another way to deal with pain I guess.
Don’t shoot the messenger but it is truly the worst ankle injury anyone can have. I know the suffering and the pain never ever goes away. Narcotics help but who wants to be doped up all the time. Life is never the same.
I injured myself in 2014 in a similar way (21screws and 2 plates).
After 2years of hell and misery with the traumatic arthritis that set in, I opted for an ankle replacement instead of a fusion which I am very pleased with 3 years out. Playing golf 3 times a week and able to walk 2-3 miles with a little discomfort and no meds.
Some surgeons will not do a replacement if you are to young. I was 66 and my working years are over. Once you do a fusion it’s done and no other options are available, choose your surgeon carefully.
Good luck on the journey.
My amputation is scheduled for 3 months from next week the pain is unbearable I never asked about an ankle replacement by the arthritis like the break could not be any worse jm told…
Hello I’m 38 and folded my leg in half in an A frame ladder 15 months ago….type 3 pilon my fib is still missing a good sized segment so non union’s severely communted …the surgeon put 2 plates on top of one another interlocking screws in the tibia and top of ankle but after 13 surgeries he didn’t believe the amount of pain I was in kept sending me to pt. I have a 16 month old son and my ankle is falling apart again to the point that it can’t be fused. I didn’t ask about an ankle replacement but I’m scheduled for a below the knee amputation April 4. I have been through hell as most of you know well but my last surgery was a year ago and I can’t help but think the original surgeon gave up part way through I mean my ankle shifted I told him about pain and he kept sending me back to PT without doing weighted x rays by the time I found a new Ortho willing to b take me on ankle had shifted 5oo much pains so bad I can’t think. My acute compartment syndrome was not treated for over 10 hours I know it doesn’t get worse than what I did but this urgeon in Boston named wixted js a real piece of sh!t. Even patients happy with outcome of surgery said he doesn’t do much for aftercare as was my experience…doesn’t listen or answer questions or spend enough time…I was traveling 4 hours round trip with infant while wife took days off to spend more time with x ray tech and nurse. DOES ANYONE KNOW A MALPRACTICE ATTORNEY? I mean even the boot killed my skin flap and the newer ortho ordered me a custom afo, special splint, lidocaine patches, etc any helps appreciated I’m so tired of the pain I have a spinal cord stimulator in and still can’t sleep… I’m truly happy for all of you doing better I just feel I wasn’t given a chance he had to of known it would fail because he refused mri and ct scans and didn’t do weight bearing x rays. He could have saved me a year of literal torcher and amputated but when have you heard a surgeon say I messed up? If anyone is really happy with their Dr and they don’t mind helping a patient deal with a bad one I beg someone to ask. Boston is real buddy buddy but this prick even had a complaint files against with MA board of health but they won’t tell me which Dr I would love to get his opinion….
I am so incredibly sorry to hear this. I thought my experience was bad but I am so so sorry you have been through this. Prayers and blessings.
Oh, Judy! I am certain, since this is wl over a year later, you had your amputation. I hope that at least has brought you some relief of pain, though amputation itself brings other issues.
I am in my 7th month post pilon injury, walking, but in differing amounts of pain. In seeking support/other personal experiences with this type of injury, I found your message, and it just is haunting. Though my situation has been difficult, I have maintained that MANY others have suffered & continue to suffer so much more, plus I have reason to hope for eventual improvement. Last month my surgeon had written “pilon” on a form I was to take with me for a eval. I had known my injury was bad, but when I looked that word up & an image of a mortar & pestle came up, it gave me goose bumps and tears filled my eyes as I read on about it. I really, really messed myself up. My husband has had many orthopedic surgeries, including two ankle fusions on his left ankle, because the first one failed. He likely will have to have his right one fused at some point. He suffers from a rare form of rheumatoid arthritis & it erodes his joints. He has pain, but he went back to work days after his surgeries. So he is adamant that I should be progressing much better by this point, though I have shared with him all the things I have read, and even read your experience to him. Pilon is truly a horrific, life- altering injury.
My heart goes out to you! I am a woman of faith and so will lift you & your family up in my prayers.
I am very sorry to hear about your accident and suffering, I have been there with the traumatic arthritis, wheel chairs and the horrible unrelenting pain that never ever goes away.
I am no doctor or medical professional and do not know all the medical issues you are having with your recovery. Based on my own experience with this injury and given all my options available by my general orthopedic surgeon, I searched the internet for days for surgeons who specialized in ankle replacements in Florida and along the Southeast Coast. I did not want a fusion or the horrifying prospect of having an amputation in any way shape or form.
I was very fortunate to find a very good and well respected Doctor of Podiatry who also trained as an orthopedic surgeon, who at that time had done over 400 replacements. He has given me a new life. It is over 5 years since the surgery and I am playing golf three time a week and walking 3 miles several times a week with no pain or meds.
With the newer replacements out today I have been told I may get over 15 yrs use out of it. These replacements may help you enjoy a better quality of life with your young son and family.
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I have a pilon fracture. Side of the ditch collapsed. And I fell about 4 feet and landed on some 6 inch pipe. i broke both my tibia and fibla my foot was hanging off to the side of my leg. I had to wear what I call a torture device on ny leg.for 7 months external fixator besides all the plates. Part of my bone was missing left it in the ditch apparently. They took that off and let my leg rest for a month and then did reconstructive surgery. Which included a rod frim ny knee to my ankle. They took a small piece of my femur and some bone marrow and mixed it with cadaver bone to repair where the chunk was.missing. My leg would swell up to over 3 inches what was normal. I still cant walk very far and only with my boot on. Its been 15 months. This is a total nightmare for me. I was always an active person and then this Covid crap isnt helping with my depression.
I’m also a Pilon fracture patient. My accident happened May 25th 2020. It has been 10 months for me. I can walk (allot wonky) and get around but I do still take pain medication every single day. I can’t do anything even vacuum without it and even with it the pain still never ends. I had an external fixation for 3 months and started with 14 screws and a plate. I had a 3rd procedure in October to remove some of the hardware to see if that would help with the pain but it didn’t. My tibia is still broken to this day. My only hope to try to repair it is a bone graph surgery and plate that and after my last visit in December my surgeon ordered an MRI and said although it’s my only hope it’s a 50/50 chance of success and it possibly could make it worse. I’ll see him again in May but as of now I’ve lost hope for it ever being right again and dealing with pain and pain management the rest of my life. It’s been a life changing, devastating, heart breaking, traumatic injury. I pray for each of you on the forum. No one understands that hasn’t been thru it, that is for sure. Everyone thinks it’s time to just bounce back from a broken bone. I’ve even been told to “stop milking it” and it’s just plain hard. I was also extremely active. I was a nail tech, worked with walking horses, avid gym goer, cleaned and painted houses for extra income, loved playing baseball with my son in the yard and all of it is no longer possible. I did go 3 miles on a bike at the gym and plan to join again soon but it and upper body machines are all I can endure.
Life is uncertain, one day we have a normal life, the other we have a pilon fracture, and then we understand how ridiculous we are when we have a perfect life…be strong work hard try everything to get better, enjoy the remaining life we have …
I see the screws coming through the bone to top of skin. I see 5 medical screws coming to top of skin (scrw bumps) they hurt if touched.
I start PT on Friday. Will they go away ? I do not want another surgery where they knock u out. What should I do?
Hello all. My name is Richard Spears. In late May of 2021 I slid off a roof and got a pilon fracture in my right leg as well as a broken heel on my left foot. As well as my surgeon and hospital staff treated me, I was pretty much on my own when it came to recovery. As my job was considered self employment, I had no insurance. Thankfully the hospital I went to had a program to help and I dont think my care suffered any because of no insurance. Unfortunately I had no family or close friends close to where I lived. Recovery on your own really sucks, not being able to function in a way that was normal to myself. Trying to have a somewhat normal existence is still very difficult. As I am still dealing with all this things seem to be improving slowly. I do get a little financial support from my boss at the time of the injury, but it is nowhere near the same as working normally. Between the pain and limited mobility, wheelchair and then and still crutches, just trying to live life has become difficult. My hope is that I will be able to get back to somewhat of a normal life. Between the articles and personal stories that I have been reading, I really hope that I am lucky enough to live normal life for me. My next appt. is coming in a little more than three weeks, hoping to get to put weight down again. I will post again after appt. i wish everyone who has had to deal with this injury all the best and hope for your recovery. Best wishes to all.
My name is Brittany and I experienced a pilon fracture in my left leg May 2021. Maybe we can see our way through this together. I live in Tehama County, CA and my leg was broke at home. I had ORIF surgery in Red Bluff and I am 10 weeks out and just started physical therapy. I am still non-weight bearing.
I don’t have much for family or friends around either. Recovery is a miserable journey with little guidance. Maybe you can tell me a little more about your leg and I can keep you updated on where I am with my physical therapy, so you could consider the same recovery regimen if you want.
I’m Chris. Age 56. Male. I got my Pilon Fracture in November 2019. I fell about four feet from a ladder. Fracture of left tib fib was open at lower ankle. Also fractures to left scapula, left humerous, and dislocations of wrist and scapula all on left side. Fixation with 6 plates and 19 screws. 4 weeks in hospital and 4 more in rehab hospital. PT once a week ever since, so all of 2020 (except 3 month with none due to Covid) and now half of 2021. Insurance just kicked me out of PT saying maximum range of improvement is met.
I am still swollen 24/7, with improvement noted with 45 degree elevation at night or while resting. Ice does not seem to help. Pain is constant but not severe. I get spasms occasionally. Quit all pain killers, but occasionally take an oxy if it’s really bad. I walk unsupported now and have begun my own version of PT, with some movement side to side in the pool and walking stairs. Going down is much harder than up. I have resumed as normal a life as one could. I broke my right leg the same way when I was 20 years old, and made a good recovery on that one, although the arthritis is now getting pretty bad on that one. I have decided to try walking about two city blocks with one way up hill to keep moving. My PT said to not stop moving or the fusion will probably have to happen. So I want to enjoy my retirement (I did since the injury, I’m lucky that way) and keep moving. I gave 100% at PT no matter how much it hurt and feel that I’m doing pretty good considering the first doctor felt amputation was my best option. Thank goodness for 2nd opinions! I don’t feel that I would have done well had I gone that route.
I’d be interested if anyone has any advice on how to reduce the swelling. Elevation is the only thing that seems to help me. Good luck to all of you, you can do more than you think you can!
You are a good example keep fighting to have a life thats the way.
Try bicycle you need to improve the blood circulation on you leg and the movment without wheight should help.
I use my road bike in the roller and i do 20 km per day, walking is good to avoid the arthritis development.
Enjoy life, the world is getting arrange!
Try using closed toe, knee high compression socks, they have helped me quite a bit. The socks are too bad to wear but after awhile just get uncomfortable so I’ll pull them off when I’m not standing for long periods of time. Hope this helps you
My name is Stan, I’m 68, on May 29, 2021, I missed a step on some stairs (5 of them) and landed really hard on my left foot. Wow, what a landing! Unable to stand because of the severe pain, went to the ER and after some X-rays was referred to an Orthopedic Surgeon. My surgeon explained what was broken (pilon fracture of the left ankle) and advised that I needed surgery (ORIF), hardware and screws to complete the procedure. All has gone extremely well, the surgery went well, only pain was immediately after surgery, over the counter pain meds for three days post surgery, 9 plus weeks of Non weight bearing, everything has healed well, both internally and externally, it’s just been difficult to stay seated for so long. Today after a scheduled doctors visit, I finally got to see the X-rays of the internal repair work, it’s not pretty, a plate and 7 screws in several directions, my surgeon informed me that it was a very bad break but it’s healed well, I’m able to begin walking with the boot and assisted with crutches, it’s good to be able to walk (somewhat) again. My advice to anyone with this type of injury, follow your surgeons recommendations and do as your told, things will work out. I hope this helps anyone who has experienced this type of injury, I’m looking forward to be able to do the things that I’ve had avoid for the past months.
It has been 10 years since my Pilon Facture from waterskiing. I had three surgeries, spent almost a year on crutches and two years of rehab. I believe I am considered a success story as I can still waterski, but do have troubles walking at times and plan on having my 4th surgery this fall to clean up all the arthritis after 10 years. I wanted to share some tips I feel has attributed to my success. First, get tons of rehab. I started when I couldn’t even move my big toe and went three times a week. second, I went to the gym and started riding a bike (with no resistance) even before I was clear for weight bearing. I feel this was critical regaining a good portion of my flexibility. Also, never ever go anywhere without shoes. Even around the house I wear shoes 1000% of the time. Additionally, give up on any high impact sports or jogging as you need to conserve the cartridge you have left. Lastly, do you ankle a favor and keep your weight down.
My name is Jay. I have a fracture in my right leg. I did a rope swing into a river here in Utah. Where I landed was not very deep and it broke my leg. It was a little scary trying to get out of the moving water.
This happened June 19th 2021.
I had the external fixator for almost two weeks, I had my hardware placed July 2nd. I am still non weight bearing. It is still painful every day, all the time.
I’m hoping I am lucky and have a good ankle when this is all done, I’ll keep everyone updated.
Hang in there, I was NWB for 10 weeks! It’s tough being down for sure, I’m almost 4 months since my injury and surgery, somewhat walking, my only issue is swelling but I guess in time it will get better, keep your head up!
My husband (40) broke both bones in his leg and shattered his ankle into many pieces while we were cutting a tree up. We had surgery with plates and screws put in 5 weeks ago. No weight bearing yet but the pain is terrible. He is always in pain with no relief. His foot is always swollen and he cannot have it not elevated for more than few few minutes without it turning deep purple. Is this normal? Do we need another opinion? He’s stressed, angry, frustrated and worn out….I’m about there too.
I had my injury in 2007 and my ankle is still swollen and arthritic pain is constant, sometimes so painful that I can’t put any weight on that leg; and, sometimes that lasts for days before I can walk normally, again; normal for me, that is. It’s a life altering injury.
I suffered the same fracture both the tibia and fibula where broke. I was in hospital three and half weeks.
It happened on the 4th of October this year. Mine wasn’t as thrillingly as yours I simply had a fainting episode at home which involved the Pilon fracture
I’ve just come out of the cast and the scar is really neat. But I’ve been told it will affect me rest of my life. I’m 56 it’s going to have servere arthritis on the joints, plus I will have a limp I’m due to see the surgeon again in January. I’ve been told I may need more surgery.
I know what you mean about pain I heard the snap as I went down.
Hi 66 year old female who slammed into the curb riding a bike in early June 2021 which caused a pilon fracture to my right tibia. Surgery with internal fixation the end of that month. All seemed to be going as planned, physical therapy twice a week since August & although a little stiff in the morning can walk unassisted. Had my last appointment with the surgeon last week who said I am doing so well he cannot see the break on the xray. So how come a couple of days ago I wake up in pain and have swelling & tenderness at the surgery site? I am afraid I might have a infection, put a call in to my doctor but due to the holiday he has not got back to me yet. Had anyone had this happen to them? I am a healthy (senior) with no health or weight issues.
Thanks for your feedback!
February 22, 2021 my life changed forever! Tiger Woods had broke his legs and ankle that very same day. I decided to stand on a barstool and clean the top of my refrigerator and was home alone at the time I did it. The barstool slid sideways on the hardwood floor and pretty soon I heard a slap and then looked at my foot and my ankle was way out of place on my left leg. I was in shock and could my bones jingle when I started to crawl to where my phone was. It has been almost a year, and the pain when I walk is excruciating. I don’t think I will ever be the same again. I had surgery and had to have external fixators on first and then a second surgery to put in the plates and 15 screws in ankle. I broke the tibia in 2 places and the fibula and shattered my ankle bone. I am thinking about having an ankle replacement now because I’m not getting any better.
51 yo female. My pilon fracture occurred while tubing down the river. Took almost an hour to get to a place down river where rescue workers could get me out. This happened July 9th. Had surgery on the 10th where an external fixator was place. Had that for almost 3 weeks. Had that removed and the internal hardware placed on the 29th of July. So here I am 6 weeks later, still semi non weight bearing. My issue is all of a sudden I’ve got severe burning in my foot with pins and needles feeling. Is that normal?
I sustained an Open IIIB pilon fracture in January 2007 after being hit by a car as a cyclist. The surgeons used an Ilizarov frame, and an anterolateral thigh flap was created to seal the wound.
Over the years, I’ve done pretty well considering the injury profile the injury profile. Unfortunately, after 15 years, I’ve just been diagnosed with severe ankle arthritis.
Has anyone who had an Open Pilon Facture that was fixed using an ALT flap advised if they had a total ankle replacement? If you did, can you please advise what that experience was like?