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Life impact of ankle fractures: Qualitative analysis of patient and clinician experiences

Steven M McPhail12*, Joel Dunstan3, Julie Canning2 and Terry P Haines45

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Functioning and Health Research, Metro South Health, Buranda Plaza, Corner Ipswich Road and Cornwall Street Buranda, Brisbane, Australia

2 School of Public Health & Social Work and Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, Australia

3 Department of Physiotherapy, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Ipswich Road, Brisbane, Australia

4 Department of Physiotherapy, Monash University, Frankston, Australia

5 Southern Health, Allied Health Research Unit, Cheltenham, Australia

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2012, 13:224  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-13-224

Published: 21 November 2012



Ankle fractures are one of the more commonly occurring forms of trauma managed by orthopaedic teams worldwide. The impacts of these injuries are not restricted to pain and disability caused at the time of the incident, but may also result in long term physical, psychological, and social consequences. There are currently no ankle fracture specific patient-reported outcome measures with a robust content foundation. This investigation aimed to develop a thematic conceptual framework of life impacts following ankle fracture from the experiences of people who have suffered ankle fractures as well as the health professionals who treat them.


A qualitative investigation was undertaken using in-depth semi-structured interviews with people (n=12) who had previously sustained an ankle fracture (patients) and health professionals (n=6) that treat people with ankle fractures. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. Each phrase was individually coded and grouped in categories and aligned under emerging themes by two independent researchers.


Saturation occurred after 10 in-depth patient interviews. Time since injury for patients ranged from 6 weeks to more than 2 years. Experience of health professionals ranged from 1 year to 16 years working with people with ankle fractures. Health professionals included an Orthopaedic surgeon (1), physiotherapists (3), a podiatrist (1) and an occupational therapist (1). The emerging framework derived from patient data included eight themes (Physical, Psychological, Daily Living, Social, Occupational and Domestic, Financial, Aesthetic and Medication Taking). Health professional responses did not reveal any additional themes, but tended to focus on physical and occupational themes.


The nature of life impact following ankle fractures can extend beyond short term pain and discomfort into many areas of life. The findings from this research have provided an empirically derived framework from which a condition-specific patient-reported outcome measure can be developed.