For ankle fractures, in general, several studies have been published on immobilization (e.g., cast or boot) versus early motion after surgical treatment. However, no studies have been performed to determine the best aftercare strategy for surgically treated patients with ankle fractures with concomitant acute distal tibiofibular syndesmotic injuries. The aim of the present review was to compare the functional outcomes of ankle fractures with syndesmotic injury treated with a cast or boot versus early motion. We performed a systematic review using the electronic databases from January 1, 2000 to September 1, 2012 of the Cochrane Library, PubMed MEDLINE®, EMbase, and Google Scholar. The included studies were those in which ankle fractures with acute distal tibiofibular syndesmotic injuries had been treated with 1 or more syndesmotic screws, with a mean follow-up period of at least 12 months and at least 25 patients included. The functional outcomes, measured using the American Orthopaedic Foot Ankle Society Hindfoot scale, Olerud-Molander Ankle Scale, and Short Musculoskeletal Function Assessment, were compared. A total of 9 studies were identified with a total of 531 patients. The number of included patients ranged from 28 to 93. The mean follow-up period was 12 to 101 months. Of the 9 studies, 3 used an early motion protocol (195 patients) and 6 (336 patients) a protocol of immobilization for at least 6 weeks. For the American Orthopaedic Foot Ankle Society Hindfoot scale, the mean scores for immobilization were 86 to 91 points and for early motion, 84 to 89. For the Olerud-Molander Ankle Scale, the scores for immobilization were 47 to 90 and for early motion, 46 to 82 points. The Short Musculoskeletal Function Assessment score for immobilization was 11 and for early motion ranged from 12 to 27 points. No apparent differences could be detected in the published data considering the functional outcomes between immobilization versus an early motion protocol in ankle fractures with acute distal tibiofibular syndesmotic injuries treated with a syndesmotic screw. However, level 1 and 2 studies on this subject are lacking.
Level of Clinical Evidence: 4