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Foot Ankle Int. 1999 Jul;20(7):404-7.

Nonoperatively treated displaced bimalleolar and trimalleolar fractures: a 20-year follow-up.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia 19104, USA.


This study evaluates the long-term results of displaced bi- and trimalleolar fractures treated closed. Few reports exist in the literature regarding the long-term outcomes of ankle fractures, and none of these specifically addresses displaced bi- and trimalleolar fractures treated nonoperatively. This study analyzed the results of bi- and trimalleolar fractures treated by a single surgeon from 1973 to 1981. As was the standard of care at that time, these fractures were treated nonoperatively if a stable reduction was achieved and maintained. Serial radiographs confirmed the maintenance of reduction in a non-weightbearing long leg cast for 6 weeks and then a short leg walking cast for 6 weeks. Of the 34 patients in this series, 19 were available for review, 10 were deceased, and five were lost to follow-up. The average age at the time of injury was 39 years (range, 17-79 years), and the average length of follow-up was 20 years (range, 16-24 years). At the time of review, only two patients with trimalleolar fractures were minimally symptomatic or had radiographic evidence of mild degenerative changes. The average American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Score was 98 of 100 points (range, 87-100 points). This long-term follow-up shows that bi- and trimalleolar fractures can be treated nonoperatively if an anatomic reduction is maintained and closely followed. With reports indicating as much as a 5% deep infection rate and a 10% incidence of loss of reduction after internal fixation, universally recommending an operation for these injuries should be reconsidered, especially in high surgical risk patients.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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