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Foot Ankle Spec. 2018 Jun;11(3):246-251. doi: 10.1177/1938640017729494. Epub 2017 Sep 7.

A Medial Malleolar "Fleck Sign" May Predict Ankle Instability in Ligamentous Supination External Rotation Ankle Fractures.

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Los Angeles County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, California.



Ankle joint stability dictates treatment in ligamentous supination external rotation ankle injuries (LSERAI). Investigation of the medial structures that support the ankle mortise is critical, and a small avulsion fracture, or "fleck", of the medial malleolus is occasionally encountered. This study aimed to assess the utility of this medial malleolus fleck sign (MMFS) in diagnosing instability requiring surgery in LSERAI.


This retrospective observational study examined 166 LSERAI at a single level I trauma center. A standardized diagnostic and treatment protocol for ankle fractures was followed. LSERAI at presentation were reported as having a normal, dynamically wide, or statically wide medial clear space. Patient demographics, MMFS characteristics, and the use of operative management were recorded.


MMFS incidence in the cohort was 16 (10%) of 166 and was present in 25% of patients with unstable LSERAI. Fifteen (94%) of 16 patients with a MMFS were deemed to have an unstable LSERAI (P < .005). MMFS had a 25% sensitivity and 99% specificity in diagnosing an unstable LSERAI. For the subgroup of patients without a statically wide medial clear space, MMFS had a 50% sensitivity and 99% specificity in determining instability.


A MMFS may be indicative of an unstable LSERAI. With previous MRI studies demonstrating complete deltoid disruption in unstable LSERAI, we deduce the MMFS may be associated with extensive deltoid incompetence. The MMFS may help to diagnose a complete deltoid injury in LSERAI with a normal medial clear space, which could influence treatment and reduce patient morbidity, radiation exposure, and healthcare costs.


Level III: Retrospective Cohort Study.


ankle fracture; ankle stability; deltoid ligament; fleck sign; imaging; radiograph; supination external rotation

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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