Early Weight Bearing After Lower Extremity Fractures in Adults

Erik N. Kubiak J Am Acad Orthop Surg December 2013 vol. 21 no. 12

Abstract Weight-bearing protocols should optimize fracture healing while avoiding fracture displacement or implant failure. Biomechanical and animal studies indicate that early loading is beneficial, but high-quality clinical studies comparing weight-bearing protocols after lower extremity fractures are not universally available. For certain fracture patterns, well-designed trials suggest that patients with normal protective sensation can safely bear weight sooner than most protocols permit. Several randomized, controlled trials of surgically treated ankle fractures have shown no difference in outcomes between immediate and delayed (≥6 weeks) weight bearing. Retrospective series have reported low complication rates with immediate weight bearing following intramedullary nailing of femoral shaft fractures and following surgical management of femoral neck and intertrochanteric femur fractures in elderly patients. For other fracture patterns, particularly periarticular fractures, the evidence in favor of early weight bearing is less compelling. Most surgeons recommend a period of protected weight bearing for patients with calcaneal, tibial plafond, tibial plateau, and acetabular fractures. Further studies are warranted to better define optimal postoperative weight-bearing protocols

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