The influence of timing of surgery on soft tissue complications in closed ankle fractures

  • Adnan SaithnaEmail author
  • W. Moody
  • E. Jenkinson
  • B. Almazedi
  • I. Sargeant
Original Article



The timing of surgery for closed ankle fracture is controversial. Conventional teaching recommends either immediate surgery or a delay of 5–7 days in order to minimise soft tissue complications. However, there have been no large studies to produce clear guidelines and the literature is conflicting. Some authors suggest that delayed surgery results in increased risk of wound complications, less satisfactory rate of anatomical reduction, increased hospital stay and health service cost.


We aimed to determine whether surgery can be safely performed in an intermediate time frame with respect to soft tissues complications.


We performed retrospective analysis of case notes and plain radiographs of 85 patients undergoing open reduction and internal fixation for closed ankle fractures at our unit in 2004. Data were analysed using the StatView statistical analysis program.


The overall incidence of infection in our population of 85 patients was 9.4%. This comprised seven superficial wound infections and one deep infection. The incidence of infection in patients undergoing surgery after 6 days was significantly higher than those undergoing surgery earlier (3.6 vs 20.7%, χ2 = 6.57, P = 0.010). Kaplan–Meier analysis showed a decreased cumulative probability of non-infection with increasing time.


We suggest that with experience, meticulous soft tissue handling and good operative technique, delaying surgery until swelling has subsided completely is unnecessary in the majority of patients and is associated with a higher risk of wound complication.


Closed ankle fracture Soft tissues Wound complication Infection 



No funds were received in support of this study.

Conflict of interest statement

No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adnan Saithna
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • W. Moody
    • 1
  • E. Jenkinson
    • 1
  • B. Almazedi
    • 1
  • I. Sargeant
    • 1
  1. 1.South Birmingham Trauma UnitSelly Oak HospitalBirminghamUK
  2. 2.SolihullUK

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