Sprained Ankles Straining ER Resources, Study Finds

Researchers argue for other approaches to treatment, such as emergency doctor visits

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Although not life-threatening, sprains and strains account for more than one-third of lower leg injuries treated in U.S. emergency departments, according to a new study.

Alternative approaches to treatment, such as an emergency hotline or scheduled doctor appointments, would spare valuable time and emergency department resources, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said in the report, recently published online in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research.

"Relatively low-severity lower extremity problems such as strains and sprains account for a substantial number of emergency department visits. Different approaches to triage and evaluation of lower extremity injury might result in better utilization of emergency health care resources," study author Kaj Lambers and colleagues wrote in a journal news release.

For the study, the researchers examined information on 119,815 patients with lower leg and ankle injuries in 2009 from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

The study revealed that strains and sprains accounted for 36 percent of all lower extremity injuries treated in emergency rooms. Analyzing trends over a 10-year period, the investigators found that sprained ankles topped the list as the most common injury among young adults and teens, who were also more likely to suffer foot bruises, cuts or strains.

Older patients were more commonly diagnosed with lower trunk bruises and abrasions as well as lower trunk fractures, including the hip, pelvis and lumbar vertebrae.

Calling an emergency phone number to schedule an urgent visit with a doctor or scheduling an appointment during regular business hours could be a possible cost-saving alternative for patients with ankle injuries, the researchers said in the news release.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine provides more information on ankle injuries and disorders.

Mary Elizabeth Dallas SOURCE: Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, news release, Aug. 16, 2011

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