Treatment of bimalleolar fractures in elderly

Orthop Traumatol Surg Res. 2022 Feb;108(1S):103137. doi: 10.1016/j.otsr.2021.103137. Epub 2021 Oct 30.

Abstract

Geriatrics continues to evolve as a specialty by adapting itself to increasingly older patients. Musculoskeletal injuries are common in these patients, who can maintain their physical capacities and autonomy for a long time, but whose bone solidness is frequently reduced by osteoporosis. Falls increase with age and because of certain medical conditions. Trauma in the geriatric population involves specific risks; thus, the treatment must be adapted not only to the fracture, but to the local conditions and the patient. Ankle injuries are particularly frequent in general traumatology but even more in geriatric traumatology. They can lead to complete loss of autonomy if the treatment is delayed and/or not adapted to the local conditions or the patient. The functional prognosis is brought into play, along with the patient's life due to loss of autonomy and general complications occurring in patients who are bed-ridden. The treatment of bimalleolar ankle fractures in older adults requires rigorous analysis at all points, which starts by evaluating the cutaneous status and viability of the soft tissues upon admission. The benefit-risk balance of the various treatment options will be assessed with the main goal being that patients recover their autonomy. This article will review this topic by answering 7 questions: 1) What are the distinctive features of elderly? Dependence on others, comorbidities, bone and soft tissue fragility are the main ones, explaining these high-risk situations and frequent complications. 2) When should a bimalleolar ankle fracture be treated surgically? The surgery must be done early, preferably within 8hours of the injury occurring, once the comorbidities have been controlled. The local conditions (skin and soft tissue damage) must be evaluated carefully as they determine the treatment. Errors are not allowed in these patients, who are often fragile and in precarious health. Definitive fixation is preferred if the skin status allows it, but one must keep temporary external fixation in mind as an option. 3) Is there still a role for conservative treatment of displaced fractures? This will produce good results when it is well done; however, the indications are rare and must be selected carefully. The main risks are secondary displacement and skin lesions inside the cast, which are sources of infection. 4) Is fixation with anatomical locking plates an advance? This is definitely an advance for these fragility fractures, which are often comminuted, as it allows return to weight bearing in certain conditions. However, the implantation rules must be followed exactly, and it is preferable to use thinner plates. 5) Does transplantar Steinmann pin fixation still have a role? It has few indications, limited to salvage situations (catastrophic local conditions, very poor general condition). External tibiocalcaneal fixation, alone or in combination, is a better option. 6) Is immediate transarticular fixation with a retrograde or antegrade locked nail a reasonable option? Fixation can be done by retrograde nailing or antegrade nailing. It is proposed to patients who are not very autonomous with a poor cutaneous status and/or severe osteoporosis. It is preferable to transplantar nailing. 7) Is immediate protected weight bearing, with or without fixation, possible? This can be considered on a case-by-case basis depending on the extent of the trauma, patient compliance and treatment carried out. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: V, Expert opinion.

Keywords: Ankle; Autonomy; Complications; Elderly; Failure; Fracture fixation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ankle Fractures* / surgery
  • Bone Nails
  • Bone Plates
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal / methods
  • Fracture Fixation, Intramedullary* / methods
  • Humans
  • Osteoporosis*
  • Treatment Outcome