Context: Ankle sprains are common problems in acute medical care. The variation in treatment observed for the acutely injured lateral ankle ligament complex in the first week after the injury suggests a lack of evidence-based management strategies for this problem.
Objective: To analyze the effectiveness of applying rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) therapy begun within 72 hours after trauma for patients in the initial period after ankle sprain.
Study selection: Eligible studies were published original randomized or quasi-randomized controlled trials concerning at least 1 of the 4 subtreatments of RICE therapy in the treatment of acute ankle sprains in adults.
Data sources: MEDLINE, Cochrane Clinical Trial Register, CINAHL, and EMBASE. The lists of references of retrieved publications also were checked manually.
Data extraction: We extracted relevant data on treatment outcome (pain, swelling, ankle mobility or range of motion, return to sports, return to work, complications, and patient satisfaction) and assessed the quality of included studies. If feasible, the results of comparable studies were pooled using fixed- or random-effects models.
Data synthesis: After deduction of the overlaps among the different databases, evaluation of the abstracts, and contact with some authors, 24 potentially eligible trials remained. The full texts of these articles were retrieved and thoroughly assessed as described. This resulted in the inclusion of 11 trials involving 868 patients. The main reason for exclusion was that the authors did not describe a well-defined control group without the intervention of interest.
Conclusions: Insufficient evidence is available from randomized controlled trials to determine the relative effectiveness of RICE therapy for acute ankle sprains in adults. Treatment decisions must be made on an individual basis, carefully weighing the relative benefits and risks of each option, and must be based on expert opinions and national guidelines.