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Fragility fractures of the ankle in the frail elderly patient

treatment with a long calcaneotalotibial nail

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Conventional methods of treating ankle fractures in the elderly are associated with high rates of complication. We describe the results of treating these injuries in 48 frail elderly patients with a long calcaneotalotibial nail.

The mean age of the group was 82 years (61 to 96) and 41 (85%) were women. All were frail, with multiple medical comorbidities and their mean American Society of Anaesthesiologists score was 3 (3 to 4). None could walk independently before their operation. All the fractures were displaced and unstable; the majority (94%, 45 of 48) were low-energy injuries and 40% (19 of 48) were open.

The overall mortality at six months was 35%. Of the surviving patients, 90% returned to their pre-injury level of function. The mean pre- and post-operative Olerud and Molander questionnaire scores were 62 and 57 respectively. Complications included superficial infection (4%, two of 48); deep infection (2%, one of 48); a broken or loose distal locking screw (6%, three of 48); valgus malunion (4%, two of 48); and one below-knee amputation following an unsuccessful vascular operation. There were no cases of nonunion, nail breakage or peri-prosthetic fracture.

A calcaneotalotibial nail is an excellent device for treating an unstable fracture of the ankle in the frail elderly patient. It allows the patient to mobilise immediately and minimises the risk of bone or wound problems. A long nail which crosses the isthmus of the tibia avoids the risk of peri-prosthetic fracture associated with shorter devices.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2014; 96-B:817–22.

Correspondence should be sent to Mr S. S. Al-Nammari; e-mail:

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