Immediate Weight-Bearing Protocol for the Determination of Ankle Stability in Patients With Isolated Distal Fibular Fractures

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Abstract

Objective:

To evaluate an alternative protocol for allowing immediate weight-bearing (WB) as tolerated in a functional walking boot in patients with a medial clear space (MCS) of less than 4 mm on nonstressed initial radiographs with subsequent WB radiographs at 1-week follow-up to determine if this can differentiate stable from unstable distal fibular fractures.

Design:

Retrospective case series.

Setting:

Level 1 trauma center.

Patients:

Seventy-nine patients who sustained an isolated distal fibular fracture with an MCS less than 4 mm on initial non–weight-bearing radiographs during a 6-year period.

Intervention:

Patients with MCS less than 4 mm on 1-week radiographs were treated nonoperatively. Patients with MCS greater than or equal to 4 mm were treated operatively.

Main Outcome Measurements:

Medial clear space measurements on WB ankle radiographs at the time of radiographic bony union.

Results:

Two of the 79 (2.5%) patients had an MCS greater than 4 mm at 1-week follow-up with WB radiographs and underwent operative fixation. The remaining 77 patients were treated nonoperatively. All 77 patients had an MCS less than 4 mm on WB radiographs at the time of radiographic healing.

Conclusion:

These results suggest that our immediate weight-bearing protocol may be an effective method for determination of functional ankle stability only in the setting of an isolated distal fibula fracture with MCS less than 4 mm. However, it should be cautioned that careful evaluation of WB radiographs for joint asymmetry and/or MCS widening is mandatory to avoid poor outcomes.

Level of Evidence:

Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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