Surgical versus conservative interventions for treating ankle fractures in adults

Department of General and Trauma Surgery, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, Nijmegen, Netherlands. .
Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online) (Impact Factor: 5.94). 01/2012; 8(8):CD008470. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008470.pub2
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The annual incidence of ankle fractures is 122 per 100,000 people. They usually affect young men and older women. The question of whether surgery or conservative treatment should be used for ankle fractures remains controversial.
To assess the effects of surgical versus conservative interventions for treating ankle fractures in adults.
We searched the Cochrane Bone, Joint and Muscle Trauma Group Specialised Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library, 2012 Issue 1), MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL and the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform and Current Controlled Trials. Date of last search: 6 February 2012.
Randomised and quasi-randomised controlled clinical studies comparing surgical and conservative treatments for ankle fractures in adults were included.
Two review authors independently performed study selection, risk of bias assessment and data extraction. Authors of the included studies were contacted to obtain original data.
Three randomised controlled trials and one quasi-randomised controlled trial were included. These involved a total of 292 participants with ankle fractures. All studies were at high risk of bias from lack of blinding. Additionally, loss to follow-up or inappropriate exclusion of participants put two trials at high risk of attrition bias. The trials used different and incompatible outcome measures for assessing function and pain. Only limited meta-analysis was possible for early treatment failure, some adverse events and radiological signs of arthritis.One trial, following up 92 of 111 randomised participants, found no statistically significant differences between surgery and conservative treatment in patient-reported symptoms (self assessed ankle "troubles": 11/43 versus 14/49; risk ratio (RR) 0.90, 95% CI 0.46 to 1.76) or walking difficulties at seven years follow-up. One trial, reporting data for 31 of 43 randomised participants, found a statistically significantly better mean Olerud score in the surgically treated group but no difference between the two groups in pain scores after a mean follow-up of 27 months. A third trial, reporting data for 49 of 96 randomised participants at 3.5 years follow-up, reported no difference between the two groups in a non-validated clinical score.Early treatment failure, generally reflecting the failure of closed reduction (criteria not reported in two trials) probably or explicitly leading to surgery in patients allocated conservative treatment, was significantly higher in the conservative treatment group (2/116 versus 19/129; RR 0.18, 95% CI 0.06 to 0.54). Otherwise, there were no statistically significant differences between the two groups in any of the reported complications. Pooled results from two trials of participants with radiological signs of osteoarthritis at averages of 3.5 and 7.0 years follow-up showed no between-group differences (44/66 versus 50/75; RR 1.05, 95% CI 0.83 to 1.31).
There is currently insufficient evidence to conclude whether surgical or conservative treatment produces superior long-term outcomes for ankle fractures in adults. The identification of several ongoing randomised trials means that better evidence to inform this question is likely to be available in future.

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