No injury is enjoyable, but injuries do tend to become more dangerous as the body ages and is unable to heal itself as efficiently. Such is the case for elderly patients who break their ankle, also known as an ankle fracture. Fortunately, new cast technology can now help these patients heal without the need for surgery.
A broken ankle is described as fractured because one or more of the bones that makes up the ankle joint have been broken. If an ankle fracture is caused by just one simple break, a patient may still be able to walk on that foot, but several fractures make bearing weight impossible. Traditional broken ankle treatment usually includes a short leg cast or removable brace and crutches for six weeks, though very serious fractures may require surgery to reposition the bones and hold them together with screws and plates.
New Cast Technology
Elderly patients with ankle fractures can now take advantage of a molded below-knee cast with minimal padding. This close contact casting method is a new type of plaster cast that uses less padding to allow for a closer anatomical fit that sets the bones in place. A surgeon applies the cast while the patient is under anaesthesia.
New research indicates that the cast offers the same positive outcomes as surgery without the risks and recovery time. The authors of the research study published in JAMA explained, “close contact casting was delivered successfully for more participants, substantially reducing the number of patients requiring invasive surgical procedures at the outset and additional operations during a 6-month period.”
While more research is still needed, it’s a major breakthrough that elderly patients can achieve pain reduction and mobility improvement without the need for surgery. This new cast form has the potential to change the reliance upon surgery for the elderly.