Functional Outcome After Air-Stirrup Ankle Brace or Fiberglass Backslab for Pediatric Low-Risk Ankle Fractures: A Randomized Observer-Blinded Controlled Trial

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ObjectivesPediatric ankle fractures are usually treated by immobilization with either a posterior splint, cast, or ankle brace. We set out to determine if the below-knee fiberglass posterior splint was as effective as the Air-Stirrup ankle brace in returning children with a low risk ankle fracture to their normal level of activity.MethodsThis was a randomized, single-blinded, noninferiority, controlled trial at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. Children aged 5 to 15 years presenting acutely with a low-risk ankle fracture were randomized to the Air-Stirrup ankle brace or fiberglass posterior splint. A validated self-reported outcome tool, the Activities Scale for Kids performance (ASKp), was used to measure physical functioning over the 4 week period. Main outcome was ASKp scores at 2 and 4 weeks with secondary outcomes including pain, weight-bearing ability, and acceptability of device.ResultsForty-five patients were randomized: 23 in the posterior splint group and 22 in the Air-Stirrup ankle brace. Study groups were similar in terms of age, fracture type, and baseline pain. More of the posterior splint group were non–weight bearing “at enrolment” (96%) compared with the ankle brace group (77%). The median ASKp score at 4 weeks was 91.9 in the brace group and 84.2 in the posterior splint group. Scores on the ASKp as well as ASKp differences were favorable toward the brace in the 11- to 15-year age group at 2 weeks (69.6 vs 55.6) and 4 weeks (97.5 vs 90.2) but trended toward the posterior splint in the 5- to 10-year age group (47.5 vs 56).ConclusionsThere was no difference between the Air-Stirrup ankle brace and the fiberglass posterior splint in returning children to their normal levels of activity.

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