Cast better than bandage for bad ankle sprain

Last Updated: 2009-02-13 14:38:50 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - As a treatment for severe ankle sprain, a mechanical support -- especially a 10-day below-knee cast -- leads to faster recovery than does a tubular compression bandage, new research shows.

Not all mechanical supports tested showed a benefit, however. The Bledsoe boot, a lightweight and removable device that limits motion, was no better than compression bandages in promoting recovery.

In the study, 584 subjects seen in eight emergency departments across the UK were randomly assigned to be treated with a 10-day below-knee cast, an Aircast brace, a Bledsoe boot, or a double-layer tubular compression bandage.

The subjects were followed for 9 months. The below-knee cast and the Aircast brace led to better ankle function at 3 months than did the compression bandage, Dr. Sarah E. Lamb, from the University of Warwick, Coventry, UK, and colleagues report in the Lancet medical journal.

Moreover, the below-knee cast had the added benefits of improving pain, symptoms, and activity.

The Bledsoe boot, as noted, offered no benefits over the compression bandage, the researchers report.

Still, by 9 months, no significant differences in any outcomes were noted between any of the mechanical support devices or the compression bandage, the report indicates.