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Acute ankle sprains account for nearly 2% of visits to the pediatric emergency department (PED). The Ottawa Ankle Rules (OAR) were developed as a safe and effective clinical decision-making tool for detecting the need for radiographs in adults with acute ankle pain. OAR state radiographs are required with at least one of the following:

1. Inability to bear weight immediately following the injury and for four steps in the ED 2. Bony tenderness at the posterior edge of the lateral or medial malleolus

Few prospective cohort studies have attempted to assess OAR pediatric populations. This study investigates the validity and documentation of OAR within a single academic institution’s PED.

This retrospective chart review included previously healthy patients aged 2-19 years who presented to the PED with a traumatic ankle injury between 2019 and 2021. Exclusion criteria were met with documented parental insistence for imaging studies. We compared calculated OAR predictive values to those in literature using Chi-squared tests and WINPEPI.

A total of 295 subjects were included. When only considering clinically significant fractures in the data analysis, 247 patients received X-rays and 42 clinically significant fractures were found. OAR were 100% sensitive (95% confidence interval 93.1–100.0), 12.2% specific (95% CI 8.2–17.2), with a positive predictive value (PPV) of 18.9% (95% CI 16.6–26.5), and negative predictive value (NPV) of 100% (95% CI 88.7–100.0). When comparing this study’s findings to those with similar design protocol, specificity was lower (p<0.05) and there was no significant difference in sensitivity, PPV, or NPV.

Implementing the highly sensitive OAR yielded zero missed fractures. Their poor specificity results in unnecessary radiation exposure, which also increases expense and wait time. Excess imaging may be attributed to ambiguous OAR criteria, their dependence on pediatric cooperation, and parental expectations for imaging studies.

Suggested Reviewers

Sandra J. Nairn, DO; Aubri M. Milano, DO; Alla Kushnir, MD

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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