There are a number of different treatments for severe ankle injuries including no intervention, physiotherapy, different types of supports, immobilisation, and surgical repair of the ligaments. However, there is a lack of good quality evidence to help aid clinical decision-making as to which is the best treatment.
The clinical trial, led by Professor Matthew W Cooke of the Warwick Medical School & Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust and Professor Sallie Lamb of Warwick Medical School assessed the clinical and cost-effectiveness of four methods of ankle support. A below the knee plaster cast; an aircast plastic splint; and a 'ski boot' style support were compared to a double layer tubular compression bandage, chosen as the reference treatment. The ankle supports were assessed in terms of recovery of function, recovery of normal occupation and prevention of residual problems. Eight emergency departments across the UK participated in the trial and researchers recruited around 600 patients with the most severe ankle sprains. They were randomised to receive one of the four treatments. Patients could still have other treatments as usual, such as painkillers and medical creams to ease pain. They were followed up with questionnaires over a nine month period to assess mobility following treatment.
Researchers found that the below knee plaster case was best at relieving pain at four and 12 weeks. The aircast plastic splint and the ski boot offered no significant advantage over the compression bandage. After 9 months there was little difference between patients regardless of the intervention they received. While the compression bandage was the cheapest option (£1.44), the plaster cast was so much better at relieving pain that it was the most cost-effective intervention.
"Our aim was to measure which treatment was the most beneficial ankle support for patients, enabling them to continue their daily routine with minimum discomfort and to aid a faster healing process, as well as being cost-effective." says Professor Cooke. "All treatments are available through the NHS and the findings of the trial will help inform clinicians' decisions on the most effective method to use for severe ankle sprains."
Professor Cooke went on to advise, "there were no differences in the patients wellbeing in the long term following all four treatments, so it would be beneficial to select an ankle support that is preferred by the patient as this could affect the speed of recovery."
To view and download the full report visit http://www.hta.ac.uk/1309 The results of the trial also published in
1. The Ski Boot support used was the Bledsoe Boot which supports the ankle and has a hinge to allow for movement.
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