Do I need an X-ray?

Do I need an X-ray?
From a sports-related incidence to stumbling on uneven ground, a twisted, sprained or broken ankle happens quickly and causes plenty of pain. Most ankle injuries don’t involve fractures or dislocated joints, but nonetheless are painful and produce serious swelling at the injury site.

Sprains occur when a bone or joint area has sustained a sudden twisting (torque) injury or direct blow near a joint. Sprains involve damage to ligaments, tendons, muscles, cartilage and skin. Many patients who experience an ankle injury are concerned it may be broken and expect X-rays; however, X-rays serve minimal benefit for sprains.

Some medical providers now practice a well-validated clinical decision evaluation tool, called Ottawa Ankle Rules, to determine if the injured foot or ankle requires imaging. When physicians use this tool to evaluate the injury, there’s close to 100% accuracy in ruling out fractures, which eliminates the costs of unnecessary X-rays and saves the patient time and money. You can find more information about Ottawa Ankle Rules here.

Even if X-rays aren’t ordered, ankle sprains are still considered significant injuries and require time to heal. The majority of isolated ankle injuries will heal properly given appropriate evaluation and treatment from an experienced medical provider. Depending on the severity of your injury, healing may require a wrap, splint, limited weight bearing activities for as much as eight weeks, rest, ice and/or pain medication. A follow up evaluation is a crucial part of determining the final outcome of ankle injuries. Back  
  • Brian Coté, DO

    Brian Coté, DO

    Board certified in Emergency Medicine, Dr. Brian Cote has practiced at Holland Hospital for 20 years in both emergency medicine and urgent care. He's currently the Medical Director of Urgent Care. After completing his residency at Spectrum Health - Butterworth Campus, Dr. Cote decided to make west Michigan home. He continues to cultivate his passion of urgent care - enriching the lives of patient's in his care.

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