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What is a Charcot fracture?

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Charcot fractures are fractures occurring in the feet or anklebones of people with Charcot arthropathy, when there is little or no trauma to the area, according to the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. Diabetics with neuropathy of their extremities, chronic alcoholics and other patients who have lost sensation in their feet or ankles develop the fractures after experiencing marked redness, tissue swelling and warmth in the areas. Fractures may occur when repeated minute traumas occur faster than healing.

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Circulation changes may weaken the bones, which elevates the risk of potential fracturing in patients with Charcot arthropathy, explains the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. The syndrome can cause fractures in the forefoot, midfoot, hindfoot, ankle and heel and may affect more than one area at a time. Patients may experience substantial fragmentation that results in foot deformities.

Patients with Charot fractures have surgical and nonsurgical treatment options, notes the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. Nonsurgical treatments include walking braces, protective splints and casts, and gradual return to weight-bearing mobility. After their fractures have healed, patients can use footwear with protective orthoses. Surgical treatments include internal fixation and fusion, open reduction, and realignment osteotomy and fusion. Charot fracture patients may require several months of healing, and the post-surgical healing time for diabetics can be twice as long as it is for nondiabetics.

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