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Internal fixation of ankle fractures should be undertaken either before or after the period of critical soft tissue swelling. As part of the clinical governance in our unit, an audit was undertaken to examine the interval between admission and surgery and net inpatient stay of patients with ankle fractures over a 6 month period.

Thirty four patients fulfilled the inclusion criteria of having an acute closed fracture of the ankle requiring open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF). There were 16 unimalleolar, 10 bimalleolar and 8 trimalleolar fractures. 10 Patients underwent surgery on the day of admission, 9 patients had surgery within 24 hours, 15 patients had surgery after 24 hours of admission. The average in patient stay was 9 days (1–61 days).

If surgery was undertaken within 24 hours the average inpatient stay was 9 days (1–14). If surgery was delayed beyond 24 hours the average inpatient stay was 15 days (3–61 days).

Delayed surgery of closed ankle fractures increases the risk of soft tissue complications and prolongs hospital stay with profound cost implications. Long-term disability resulting from ankle fractures can be reduced by optimal early management procedures.

Correspondence should be addressed to: Léana Fourie, CEO SAOA, PO Box 12918, Brandhof 9324 South Africa.