Immediate weightbearing after operative treatment of bimalleolar and trimalleolar ankle fractures: faster return to work for patients with nonsedentary occupations
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The goal of this study was to compare immediate weightbearing (IWB) and traditional weightbearing (TWB) postoperative protocols in unstable ankle fractures, as this has not been compared in prior works. We hypothesize that an immediate weightbearing protocol after ankle fracture fixation will lead to an earlier return to work. An ankle fracture registry was reviewed for operatively treated unstable bimalleolar and trimalleolar ankle fractures at an ambulatory surgery center and followed up at associated outpatient clinics. All fracture cases reviewed occurred from 2009 to 2015. Immediate weightbearing patients were placed into a controlled ankle motion (CAM) boot and allowed to fully bear weight the day of surgery. Traditional weightbearing patients were placed into a CAM boot with 6 weeks of non-weightbearing. Demographics, fixation technique, and injury characteristics were surveyed. Physical job demand was stratified for 69 patients meeting the inclusion criteria (34 IWB and 35 TWB). The main outcome of this study was measured as the time to return to work. Subgroup analysis of patients with nonsedentary jobs demonstrated a significantly earlier return to work for the IWB group (5.7 versus 10.0 weeks, p = .04). Multivariate regression analysis identified a statistically significant 2.25-week (p = .05) earlier return to work for the IWB group after adjustment for occupational physical demand, demographics, fracture characteristics, and participation in a light work period before full work return. In patients with nonsedentary jobs, an IWB protocol after operative management of bimalleolar and trimalleolar ankle fractures resulted in an earlier return to work compared with traditional protocols.
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