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Broken tibia

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Dear doctor, on the 16th of January I fell in the shower and broke my tibia completely through on the left side and fractured it on the right side and had a floating piece also. I was operated on a week later and I am still in quite a bit of pain. My leg is always aching and I keep getting shooting zaps all over my foot. I also don't have proper feeling in my big and second toe and all the way down the top off my foot. I am 54 years old and keep hearing horror stories about this kind of break. I realize eveyone has different healing capabilities, but do you have some idea of how long the healing process will be. I also drive a manual car, I guess driving it is going to be quite a long way uff. Thank you so much for your valuable time. Kindest regards Jeni.
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replied February 18th, 2012
Especially eHealthy

Sorry about your injury.

The zaps and zinging is the peripheral skin nerves regenerating. However, the fact that you have altered sensation on the top of the foot and into the first web space (area between the first and second toes) is concerning for a problem with the peroneal nerve. If your surgeon does not know about this, you should contact him/her to inform him/her about it. That could be a significant problem.

You do not say if you are in a cast, brace, dressing of any type. Sometimes, these will press on the peroneal nerve. Also, it is not uncommon for this nerve to be injured at the time of the tibia break. But, your surgeon should be advised of this symptom.

As to time it takes to recover from a tibia fracture, you probably realize that everyone is unique and heals at his/her own rate. Several things play into recovery time. Research can give you an idea of union times. But, the soft tissues take a lot long to recover. It is not uncommon for it to take as much as a year to 18 months to fully recover from a tibia fracture. That is not to say you will be laid up for that long, but it may take that long till you know the final outcome.

The following time is for the healing of the bone, but does not include the rehablitation time.


- low energy fratures: 10-13 weeks;
- high energy fractures: 13-20 weeks;
- open fractures: 16-26 weeks
---- type 3B & 3C open frx requires 30 to 50 weeks for consolidation;
- distal tibial fractures may be more prone to non union than proximal fractures due to absence of muscular soft tissue envelope;
- in the report by Anne Skoog et al., the authors studied 64 consecutive patients with a tibial shaft fracture;
----> 12 months after the injury, 44 percent had not regained full function of the injured leg, although all but two of the patients had returned to preinjury working status;
- references:
----> "One-Year Outcome After Tibial Shaft Fractures: Results of a Prospective Fracture Registry" A Skoog. J Orthop Trauma; 15(3):210-215, March/April 2001.

So, you have a ways to go. You are going to have to work hard on regaining ankle range of motion and muscle strength. You should eat a proper diet with extra protein, calcium, and vitamin D. If you want to take supplements fine. DO NOT SMOKE. Limit alcohol consumption.

Again, you have a lot of work ahead of you. Good luck.
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