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Rehabilitation

Broken lateral malleolus

07/07/2008

Question:

Can an x-ray show tendon/ligament damage with broken ankle?

Answer:

Although tendons and ligaments are "soft tissues" which therefore are not directly imaged with X-rays, damage to ligaments, at least, can sometimes be inferred based on specific details of the X-ray depiction of a fracture (for example, which bone(s) is/are involved, the fracture pattern, the degree to which bones or fracture fragments may be displaced, etc.). The possible presence of tendon damage is less likely to be deduced from X-ray images.

Findings on physical examination are necessary to help determine whether tendon and/or ligament damage may be present, and to interpret not only X-ray findings, but also, findings from an MRI scan, if performed, which is the best means of directly visualizing such soft tissues as tendons and ligaments.

Your doctor is in the best position to answer your question.

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Response by:

Brian L Bowyer, MD Brian L Bowyer, MD
Clinical Associate Professor
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University