The diagnosis and stabilization of ankle syndesmotic injuries after acute injury remains an area of controversy in the foot and ankle surgical literature, seemingly without universal consensus. The primary objective of this investigation was to determine the frequency of agreement and reliability of the stress examination of the ankle syndesmosis. Secondary objectives were to determine surgeon preferences and protocols with respect to the ankle syndesmosis and to use gaze recognition software to perform an eye-tracking assessment during performance of stress examinations. Twelve foot and ankle surgeons, 12 residents, and 12 students were shown 5 intraoperative fluoroscopic still images and videos of the stress examination of the ankle syndesmosis. They were asked to evaluate the result as being “positive” or “negative” for syndesmotic stability. The overall reliability of the interpretation of the stress examination of the ankle syndesmosis was a kappa of 0.123 (surgeons 0.087; residents 0.019; students 0.237), indicating “slight” agreement. Survey results indicated wide variability in the perioperative preferences and protocols of surgeons dealing with the evaluation and treatment of the ankle syndesmosis. Eye-tracking results also demonstrated variability in the anatomic structures of interest focused on during performance of this testing. The results of this investigation provide evidence of reliability well below what would be expected of a gold standard test during stress examination of the ankle syndesmosis. These results indicate that future scientific endeavors are required to standardize the performance and interpretation of this testing.
Level of Clinical Evidence: 4