Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Ankle FAQ


I just saw an X-ray of the huge screw the doctor put in my son's ankle. It's for a torn ligament between the two lower leg bones. We've been told a second operation will be needed. This one will take it out when everything's healed. Is there any way to avoid this second surgery?


Metal plates and screws are often used to hold bones together during healing after an injury. There are some problems with this. As you noted, a second operation is needed to remove the hardware after healing takes place.

Even before the screw is taken out there's a risk that it could loosen or break beforefull ligament healing occurs. Scientists are trying to use new materials to make a bioabsorbable screw. It could be left in place, and it will slowly break down and get absorbed by the body.

There's still the problem of infection and bone breakdown around the screw, even the bioabsorbable type. More studies are underway looking for other ways to repair this injury while minimizing additional problems.

Brian Thornes, FRCSI, et al. Suture-Button Syndesmosis Fixation. In Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. February 2005. Vol. 431. Pp. 207-212.

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