Broken Tibia And Fibula

A Broken Tibia And Fibula Is Fairly Common

Suffering a broken tibia and fibula is more common than one might think. When we hear of someone breaking a bone, or we break a bone ourselves, it's just one bone in most cases, except in the case of very bad accidents. A broken leg is a broken leg. Skiers suffer broken legs, as to bronc riders, football players, and at times, non-athletes. Quite often, when breaking a leg, one suffers both a broken tibia and fibula.

The Two Leg Bones - There are two bones in each of our legs that extend from the knee to the ankle. The one in front, which lies just under the surface of the skin, is the tibia. The fibula also goes from the knee to the ankle and lies behind the tibia. The tibia is the larger or thicker of the two bones, but is one of the bones in our body that is most commonly broken. If the force which causes the tibia to break is strong enough, the fibula may break as well. If you have a broken leg, either your tibia is broken or you have a broken tibia and fibula. One could break only the fibula, but that is a rather rare occurrence as the fibula is a deep bone, protected by the calf muscle and other tissue.

Most instances of a broken tibia and fibula are the result of high impact events. Low impact situations, like the repetitive stress due to jogging, can sometimes cause stress fractures as opposed to clean breaks. When this occurs, usually only the tibia will fracture, though a combined tibia/fibula stress fracture is not unheard of.  Only about 10% of stress fractures involving one or both of the leg bones occur in the fibula, and most of those are suffered by older adults. Thinning of the bones due to osteoporosis can sometimes lead to tibia/fibula fractures.

Diagnosis - The severity of a broken tibia and fibula can usually be determined quite accurately by an x-ray. In the case of a low-level stress fracture, which can still cause tenderness and swelling, a bone scan is sometimes necessary to pinpoint the location of the fracture. Other tests or exams will sometimes be performed in the event of a fracture if a possibility exists that surrounding tissues or muscles may have suffered injury.

Treatment - A tibia or fibula fracture (or both) can sometimes require only a cast for treatment if the break is not too severe. More severe breaks in one or both bones may require surgery, internal fixation (screws, pins, or plates), and sometimes even the insertion of rods. Obviously, when such drastic measures are required, recovery can be a long process. Breaking both leg bones is a much more complicated situation than when only one of the leg bones has been broken.

Prognosis - When the fracture is not too severe, the prognosis for a complete recovery is generally very good, for both the tibia and the fibula. Isolated fibula fractures usually heal well, even though such isolated fractures are not terribly common. The tibia on the other hand, is a bone which for some reason has a reputation for not always healing properly. In other words, there are times, when even in the case of a rather simple fracture, the two parts of the tibia do not form a good union, and some means of internal fixation must then be resorted to.

If you should break a leg, and only the tibia is involved you can consider yourself somewhat lucky, as your recovery time will usually be much faster, and the chances of complications much less, than in the case of a broken tibia and fibula.