Using a computer database, we conducted a retrospective review of all ankle fractures treated at our institution from March 1985 to October 1996. Twenty-one patients with diabetes mellitus and isolated ankle fractures that were treated operatively met all inclusion criteria. Seven had insulin-dependent diabetes, and 14 had non-insulin-dependent diabetes. A randomly selected control group of 46 patients without diabetes who also underwent operative treatment of ankle fractures during this same time period were matched for age, sex, and fracture severity. The complication rate was 43% with 13 complications in nine patients with diabetes. There were seven (15.5%) complications in the control group. Complications in the diabetic group included seven infections (five deep, two superficial) and three losses of fixation. The complications were more severe in our diabetic population, requiring seven additional procedures including two below-knee amputations; a third patient refused an amputation. No additional procedures were required in our control group. All complications in our control group resolved with treatment. The relative risk for postoperative complications in patients with diabetes who sustained ankle fractures that were treated operatively was 2.76 times greater than the control group's (95% confidence interval, 1.57-3.97).
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