Dislocated Ankle in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Front view of the bones of the ankle

Your child's ankle can be forced out of its normal position (dislocated) after a crash, in a fall, or when playing sports.

When the ankle is dislocated, damage can happen to the bones, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. Your child may need more treatment.

The doctor put your child's ankle back in its normal position and may have put it in a splint or cast. This will keep the ankle stable until your follow-up visit.

Your child may need surgery because a dislocated ankle is often also broken.

It may take weeks or months for your child's ankle to heal, depending on how bad the injury is.

Your child may have had a sedative to help him or her relax. Your child may be unsteady after having sedation. It takes time (sometimes a few hours) for the medicine's effects to wear off. Common side effects of sedation include nausea, vomiting, and feeling sleepy or cranky.

The doctor has checked your child carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Put ice or a cold pack on your child's ankle for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when your child is awake). Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's cast or splint. Keep the cast or splint dry.
  • Follow the cast care instructions your doctor gives you. If your child has a splint, do not take it off unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Prop up your child's leg on pillows in the first few days after the injury. Keep the ankle higher than the level of your child's heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Do not let your child put weight on his or her ankle unless your doctor tells you to. Your child may have to use crutches to walk.
  • Have your child wiggle his or her toes often to reduce swelling and stiffness.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing.
  • Your child is very sleepy and you have trouble waking him or her.
  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse nausea or vomiting.
  • Your child has increased or severe pain.
  • Your child's foot is cool or pale or changes colour.
  • Your child has tingling, weakness, or numbness in his or her toes.
  • Your child's cast or splint feels too tight.
  • Your child cannot move his or her toes.
  • Your child has signs of a blood clot, such as:
    • Pain in his or her calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in his or her leg or groin.
  • The skin under your child's cast or splint is burning or stinging.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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