Rehabilitation after immobilization for ankle fracture: The EXACT randomized clinical trial
Moseley AM., Beckenkamp PR., Haas M., Herbert R., Lin C-WC. JAMA 2015; 13(13):1376-1385
Take Home Message: Following removal of immobilization, a patient recovering from an isolated uncomplicated ankle fracture does not benefit more from a supervised exercise program and advice compared with advice alone.
Despite ankle fractures being common, we don’t know the best rehabilitation strategy after a surgery and/or immobilization. Therefore, the authors investigated the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a supervised exercise program with advice about self-management (rehabilitation) compared with advice alone among individuals with an isolated ankle fracture. Additionally, the authors evaluated whether differences between groups were influenced by fracture severity, sex, or age. Two hundred and fourteen participants who completed skeletal growth (94 men, 120 women) were randomized into the rehabilitation group (106 participants) or the advice-alone group (108 participants). A physical therapist provided the advice-only group with one informational session about exercise (non-weight-bearing ankle positions) and return-to-play activity. The advice-only group also received a handout summarizing the advice with illustrations. Participants in the rehabilitation group received the same advice in addition to participating in a supervised exercise program tailored, monitored, and progressed by a physical therapist. Participants in the rehabilitation group performed ankle mobility and strengthening exercises, weight bearing and balance, and stepping exercises with supervision (1-2 times/week for 4 weeks). They were also encouraged to perform these exercises at home. Participants completed the Lower Extremity Functional Scale (0-80; higher score better activity) and Assessment of Quality of Life (0-1; higher score better quality of life) at baseline (prior to randomization) and at 1, 3, and 6 months post advice session. Cost was measured in terms of direct costs to the health system and out of pocket costs to the participant over 6 months. Participants were ~42 years of age on average. The rehabilitation group did not improve more than the advice only group in self-reported function or quality of life. Treatment effects were not influenced by fracture severity, age, or sex. The authors skipped the full cost analysis; however, the rehabilitation group had a higher cost to the health care system, but there were no differences between groups for out-of-pocket or total costs.
The authors demonstrated that a supervised exercise program with self-management advice did not improve activity limitation or quality of life more than a one-time information session. Furthermore, fracture severity, age, or sex of the participant did not affect the outcome. Unfortunately, the authors did not explore if the level of occupational or recreational physical activity influenced the outcomes. These results may be applicable to the general population we see in our clinics, but it is unclear if they would apply to individuals who perform more physically demanding tasks (for example, athletes or construction workers). It was also interesting to note that there were no differences between out-of-pockets costs between groups; however, it was more costly to the health care system. Based on this study, medical professionals should be aware that routine care for those recovering from isolated, uncomplicated ankle fractures should include self-management advice at the time of removal of immobilization and supervised exercise may not be necessary for most patients.
Questions for Discussion: Do you think there would be a difference between groups long term (1+ year)? What advice do you provide your athletes about home exercise? What are your concerns about home exercise programs?
Written by: JaneMcDevitt, PhD
Reviewed by: Jeff Driban
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