Fractures of the Ankle Requiring Surgery: What to expect during your hospital stay

Patient Experience

  • Reference Number: HEY-163/2018
  • Departments: Orthopaedics
  • Last Updated: 1 February 2022


This leaflet has been produced to give you general information about your admission to hospital for surgery. It is not intended to replace the discussion between you and your doctor or nurse but may act as a starting point for discussion. If after reading it you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team who has been caring for you.

What is a fracture of the ankle?

A fracture is either a break through a bone. The most common form of ankle fractures are those to the tibia and fibula where they join the foot.

Why do I need an operation?

A fracture to the ankle will cause pain, swelling and discomfort. The severity and location of your fracture may affect the way in which you can use your leg in everyday life. If a fracture heals in a bad position, it may cause deformity and loss of function in that area. Surgery may be required to repair the bone in a better position and reduce these risks.

Can there be any complications or risks?

As with any surgery there is a risk of complications. These risks are small but include:

  •  Residual weakness/reduced function/difficulty walking
  •  The risk of bleeding.
  •  Infection.
  •  The risk of the bones not healing properly, possibly requiring further surgery.
  •  The risk of nerve damage.

These risks will be discussed with you throughout your stay and before you are asked to sign your consent form for your operation. There are risks of undergoing an anaesthetic but these will be discussed with you by your anaesthetist.

How do I prepare for my operation?

Please read the information leaflet.  Share the information it contains with your partner and family (if you wish) so that they can be of help and support.  There may be information they need to know, especially if they are taking care of you following this operation.

In order to have an operation you are required not to eat anything for at least six hours before your operation.   This includes chewing gum.  You can drink clear fluids (water or black tea without sugar) up to two hours before your operation.  After this time you must eat or drink nothing, unless advised to by the nurse caring for you.  If you take regular medication you will be advised by the nurses caring for you whether or not these medications can be taken as normal before surgery.

The Hull University Hospitals NHS Trust operates a no smoking policy in and around hospital grounds.  We strongly recommend that you adhere to this because smoking can cause nausea and vomiting after surgery and prolong your hospital stay. Smoking is also known to delay bone healing.

What will happen?

You will be admitted from the Fracture Clinic or the Emergency Department to a specified ward if you have a theatre day and time.  If this is not the case, you will be assessed by a doctor or nurse, leg put in plaster and sent home.  The trauma coordinator will contact you when you have a date for surgery and advise you when you need to come into hospital for surgery.  At this point, you will be told whether or not you can eat and drink prior to your admission and which ward you will be admitted onto.  On the day of your admission, you need to report to the nurses’ station where you will be shown to your bed and the location of the ward facilities will be explained.

Your surgery may or may not require an overnight stay but we suggest you bring with you:

  • any medication you are currently taking
  • toiletries
  • nightwear and slippers

Mobile phones are now permitted in most areas but you will be advised by staff those areas where you are not able to use your phone.

As stated earlier, the anaethetist will discuss with you the type of anaesthetic being used and what it involves.  Following which, you will be given the opportunity to ask any questions or raise any concerns regarding the anaesthetic.

Your operation will be performed in the Orthopaedic Theatre usually at Hull Royal Infirmary but occasionally at Castle Hill Hospital.

After your operation, it is normal to experience some pain, however our experienced staff will be able to control your pain with the use of appropriate medications.

What happens afterwards?

After the operation you will go to the recovery suite for a period of time to ensure that you have recovered from the anaesthetic.  Following your recovery, you will be transferred back to the ward.  It is normal to feel tired after an anaesthetic and it is advisable to remain in bed and rest and until the effects have worn off fully.

The type of surgery you have had will affect your length of stay, but it would be expected that you may be able to go home after 24 – 48 hours of your operation, unless further treatment is required.

You are likely to be in plaster cast for at least six weeks and up to twelve weeks depending on the type of fracture.

You will be assessed for risk of developing a blood clot (DVT) and appropriately managed.

Once the healthcare team is happy that you are recovered fully and that there are no complications, you will be discharged home.

Before discharge, you will be advised on any exercises that you may need to do and how to care for your plaster. You will also be seen by a physiotherapist who will show you how to mobilise with crutches safely. Once home, you will be sent an appointment to attend our Fracture Clinic for follow-up care. At home it is important to elevate foot to decrease swelling.

Should you require further advice on the issues contained in this leaflet, please contact Tel No: (01482) 674960 (Mon-Fri 08.00- 16.00hrs) Or (01482) 675012/675120 weekend and after 16.00hrs

This leaflet was produced by the Orthopaedic Department, Hull Royal Infirmary, Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and will be reviewed in February 2025.

Ref: HEY163-2022

General Advice and Consent

Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.

Consent to treatment

Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats you, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to you. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.

The information you receive should be about your condition, the alternatives available to you, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:

  • you must be able to give your consent
  • you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
  • you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person

Information about you

We collect and use your information to provide you with care and treatment. As part of your care, information about you will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.

We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide you with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your doctor, or the person caring for you.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about you. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

If you or your carer needs information about your health and wellbeing and about your care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.

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