Anderson Silva remains hospitalized on Monday after surgery to repair a fractured tibia and fibula suffered during his fight at UFC 168 on Saturday while delivering a kick to opponent Chris Weidman.
Silva's surgeon, Dr. Steven Sanders of Las Vegas, detailed the nature of the injury and subsequent operation to repair the damage during a conference call held on Monday.
According to Dr. Sanders, Silva's leg was actually stabilized and realigned inside the Octagon, which may explain the tormented look the fighter had on his face as he was carried via stretcher from the cage to the MGM Grand's examination room.
From the arena, Silva was transported to the University Medical Center in Las Vegas where he was counseled and then chose to go into immediate surgery to repair the damaged leg. Dr. Sanders said the procedure took about an hour with an additional 30 minutes to close the wound and insert an 11.5 millimeter titanium rod into his tibia to help stabilize the bone and promote healing. The fibula was not set in a similar manner due to a myriad of reasons, not the least of which was that to do surgery on that bone, doctors would have had to operate directly at the site of the break and that could have caused an infection.
Dr. Sanders explained that Silva's bones will now heal on their own while the rehabilitation involves rebuilding the soft tissue and muscle damage that occurred and will continue to happen while his bone is setting back into place. Muscle atrophy in the calf will begin almost immediately as Silva's leg remains immobile. The former middleweight champion remains on bed rest with his leg elevated while taking medication to relieve the severe pain he's suffering.
Silva is expected to make a full recovery, especially in the bones that broke from the two fractures that occurred. He will be able to start putting weight on the leg in the next few weeks once the pain subsides. The bones should not lose any kind of strength from the break, which means if Silva chooses to return to fighting he's not in danger of the same injury occurring again.
"When the fracture heals, the bone will achieve its original strength," Dr. Sanders explained. "In addition to it achieving its original strength, he'll also have a titanium rod that's 11.5 millimeters in diameter shoring up that area as well."
The titanium rod can safely stay in Silva's leg for the rest of his life, as the doctor explained the human body rarely rejects the metal when placed into a bone.
Dr. Sanders stated that a pre-surgery check of Silva's x-rays did not reveal any evidence that his leg was damaged prior to the kick that caused the break. While Silva has been a professional fighter for several years and delivered other kicks during the fight with Weidman, the doctor says that there was no proof in the scans he observed that the Brazilian fighter suffered any other fractures, breaks or stress in his leg before the break occurred.
"As an orthopedic surgeon when any injury occurs we like to know that it's from the trauma and not some unexpected or unsuspected underlying condition. So from the x-rays, when I looked at the x-rays besides obviously seeing the fracture in the bones moved apart, I look at the character of the bone to see if there was any pre-disposition to that bone why it would break," Dr. Sanders explained.
"The nature or character or quality of his bone was completely normal. There was no predisposing pathology in that bone that would have led to this particular event occurring at this time."
Silva will now begin his recovery in the hospital for a few days under his doctor's supervision until he can be cleared to return home. While there is absolutely no confirmation that Silva has come close to a decision about whether or not he'll fight again, he's constantly inquired with the doctor about getting back in the gym after his leg heals.
"He has spontaneously mentioned, obviously that's not something I'm questioning or curious about in the immediate post-operative phase, but he asked me in the pre-op area saying 'when can I train?' and he asked me every time when I see him on my rounds he asks 'will I be able to train? When can I train?' and I always indicated to him that he should be able to train," Dr. Sanders stated.
Regardless of fighting, Silva's outlook seems positive given the nature of the injury. Dr. Sanders is still hesitant to give any kind of timeline for a return for Silva, if he chooses to fight again, because the surgery was just two days ago. Silva is probably looking at about six to nine months off before he could potentially head back into the training room.
"We are not even 48 hours from the surgery and tibia fractures, though we can get them to heal, can have slower healing. So in general my prognosis would be a fracture healing somewhere in the nature of three to six months, but there's also soft tissue components that have to heal and then of course a rehabilitative process as well," Dr. Sanders explained.
"If I had to make a guess less than 48 hours from the operation, I would say the fracture healing in three to six months, and attempting to train in six to nine months."
For now the main concern for Silva is allowing his leg the proper time to heal and ensuring that he's given every opportunity to rehabilitate and recover. Dr. Sanders said that Silva is already using crutches just 48 hours removed from the surgery and he expects the former champion to make a full recovery.