A broken or fractured foot or toe is one of the most common lower extremity injuries. The human foot has 26 bones. The foot is divided into 3 parts: the hindfoot, the midfoot, and the forefoot. There are 2 bones in the hindfoot. The talus, which is where the foot attaches to the leg, and the calcaneus, which forms the heel. The midfoot is made up of five smaller bones: the navicular, the cuboid, and 3 cuneiforms The forefoot is the long part of the foot and has 19 bones.
There is a metatarsal for each of the 5 toes, the big toe is made up of 2 phalanges, and the other toes each have 3 phalanges. In addition, the foot sometimes has some small pebble-like bones called sesamoid bones. These bones do not perform any necessary function and are often called accessory bones.
What typically causes breaks or fractures in your feet?
Foot bones usually break when something happens to crush, bend, twist, or stretch the bone. Toes are often broken when you accidentally kick something hard. Heels are often broken when you fall from a height and land on your feet. Other bones in the foot sometimes break when you twist or sprain an ankle.
Although most bones break suddenly because of an accident, occasionally, small cracks can form in bones over a longer period of time from repeated stress on the bones. These are called stress fractures and occur most frequently with repetitive movement over a long period of time. These usually occur with athletes such as dancers and runners.
What treatments are available for broken bones?
Treatment for a broken bone in the foot depends on which bone is broken and how it is broken. Some broken bones in the foot can be treated with crutches and flat-bottom shoes, others require splints or casts, and still others require surgery to repair the bones.
Treatment for a broken toe depends on the location and severity of the fracture. The fracture may need to be put back into place (reduced) and splinted or casted. A minor fracture may only require the doctor to tape a broken toe to the toe next to it for support (buddy taping). A more serious injury could require surgery and the use of pins or screws to repair the bone.
Signs and symptoms that your medical practitioner will be looking for are toe or foot pain, swelling, stiffness, bruising, deformity, difficulty walking, injury to the toenail, or feeling that shoes are too tight. Sometimes a doctor’s examination is all that is needed to be certain bones in the midfoot are broken. Sometimes an X-ray is required to determine if there is a fracture.
A malpractice claim will often arise when your treater fails to recognize these signs and fails to order imaging studies when warranted to rule out a broken/fractured toe. Delayed treatment can lead to complications that occur after healing that include arthritis, pain, stiffness, or deformity. The fractured bone may not heal completely (nonunion), or heals improperly (malunion), requiring surgery to fix the toe. Depending on the length of the delay, it could cause healing in an unnatural position that surgery will not correct. After the toe fracture heals, the person may still be left with arthritis, pain, stiffness, or even a deformity despite surgery because of the delay in diagnosis.
Such consequences will cause ongoing pain that may require expensive medication to relieve the pain. The continuing pain and deformity could prevent you from walking normally which could affect your livelihood and result in financial loss. Even with a timely diagnosis, the surgery could be performed incorrectly causing additional surgery and a similar outcome as a delayed diagnosis.
The Thistle Law Firm is experienced in handling claims involving misdiagnosis and mistreatment of fractures to the foot and toe. If you or a family member believe you may have a medical malpractice claim as a result of poor treatment for a foot or toe fracture, the attorneys at the Thistle Law Firm are here to take your call and answer your questions at 215-525-6824.