Could an 'ankle hotline' relieve strain on health care demands?

Should lower leg strains and sprains take up valuable ER time and resources? According to a new study by Kaj Lambers and colleagues, from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, USA, strains and sprains account for over a third of lower extremity injuries treated at emergency departments. They reason that because these problems are not life-threatening, perhaps telephone triage and scheduled care appointments might be a better use of precious emergency healthcare resources. The work is published online in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research published by Springer.

In order to prevent injuries, allocate resources more efficiently, and prioritize training, it is important to get an accurate picture of the number of patients and types of injuries presenting to emergency departments. Lambers and colleagues looked specifically at leg problems that bring patients to the ER.

They analyzed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) for 119,815 patients with lower extremity injuries in 2009. They wanted to determine the number of leg injuries by region and disease category, patients' age, circumstances of the injury, and where it occurred. They also looked at year-to-year consistency between 2000 and 2009 to get a picture of injury trends.

They found that strains and sprains accounted for 36 percent of all lower extremity injuries, the most common of which was an ankle sprain - an injury most common in young adults and teenagers. Indeed, younger patients were more likely to have , foot contusions/abrasions, and foot strains/sprains. Older patients were more likely to have lower trunk (femoral neck, hip, pelvis, and lumbar vertebrae) fractures and lower trunk contusions/abrasions.

The authors conclude: "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 might result in better utilization of emergency healthcare resources. For instance, with ankle injuries might call an emergency phone number to be triaged for an urgent visit if necessary, or a scheduled visit during regular business hours instead."

More information: Lambers K et al (2011). Incidence of patients with lower extremity injuries presenting to US emergency departments by anatomic region, disease category and age. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. DOI 10.1007/s11999-011-1982-z

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

1st US study -- gymnastics lands thousands in ER

Apr 04, 2008

More than 600,000 children participate in school-sponsored and club-level gymnastics competitions annually in the United States. Yet gymnastics continues to be overlooked in terms of potential for injury, while having one ...

Study shows lace-up ankle braces keep athletes on the court

Jul 08, 2011

Lace-up ankle braces can reduce the occurrence of acute ankle injuries in male and female high school basketball players, according to research presented at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine's Annual Meeting ...

Recommended for you

AMA 'Code of Ethics' offers guidance for physicians

1 hour ago

(HealthDay)—The American Medical Association (AMA) Code of Ethics and other articles provide guidance for physicians in relation to public health emergencies, according to a report from the AMA.

Pot-infused edibles: One toke over the line in Colorado?

5 hours ago

Marijuana shops have sprouted across Denver ever since Colorado legalized the drug for adults in January, but the popularity of pot-infused edibles has surprised authorities, and parents are seeking a ban ahead of Halloween.

US sues Gerber over claims on infant formula

7 hours ago

U.S. government regulators announced Thursday they were suing Gerber, the well-known baby food maker, for claiming that its Good Start Gentle formula can prevent or reduce allergies in children.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.