Postoperative care for ankle fractures is generally 1 of 2 regimens: 1) functional treatment combined with early weightbearing (EWB), or 2) immobilization in a cast/orthosis for 6 weeks without weightbearing (6WC). The objective of this study was 2-fold: 1) to follow a prospective group treated with EWB as to long-term subjective and objective outcomes, and 2) to compare a subset of this group with a matched group of historic controls treated with 6WC.
Prospective, clinical, cohort observation, and retrospective matched pair analysis.
University hospital, level 1 trauma center.
Forty-three patients (20 males; mean age, 49 ± 14 years) with operated Weber B/C fractures underwent EWB. For comparison, 23 patients of this group were matched to a same number of historic controls with respect to age, gender, body mass index, and fracture type.
Open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) using a 1/3-tubular-fibula-plate for the fibula, and malleolar screws for the medial malleolus fracture (in cases with a bimalleolar ankle fracture) followed by EWB or 6WC.
Main Outcome Measurements:
Olerud and Tegner scores at follow-up (at least 12 months after surgery), time to full weightbearing, return to work, pain intensity (numerical rating scale (NRS)), and hospital stay. Statistical comparisons were performed by using the Mann-Whitney U test or Fisher exact test (P < 0.05).
Patients with EWB were full weightbearing at 7 ± 3 weeks and returned to work at 8 ± 5 weeks after surgery. At follow-up (mean, 20 ± 11 months after surgery), all EWB patients showed good results in the Olerud score (90 ± 13 points). Matched-pair analysis in 23 patients in each group revealed differences between EWB and 6WC groups for hospital stay (mean, 10.8 ± 4.7 vs. 13.6 ± 6 days; P = 0.12), time to full weightbearing (mean, 7.7 ± 3.1 vs. 13.5 ± 9.4 weeks; P = 0.01), and time until return to work (mean 9.2 ± 5.5 vs. 10.8 ± 7 weeks; P = 0.63). No differences concerning pain intensities were observed (EWB vs. 6WC: NRS = 1.9 vs. 1.7; P = 0.12). At follow-up, Olerud scores were generally considered good for both groups; however, mean values in EWB patients were slightly higher (87 ± 14 vs. 79 ± 19 points; P = 0.25). In both groups, the majority of patients reached their preinjury level of activity as demonstrated by Tegner scores.
EWB patients tolerated earlier full weightbearing compared with 6WC patients, and there were no disadvantages with EWB compared with 6WC concerning hospital stay, pain intensities, time until return to work, and Olerud/Tegner Scores. Potential candidates for EWB are patients with a stable osteosynthesis of their fractured ankles as judged by the responsible surgeon, compliance, and high motivation.