New research presented in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery suggests that ankle fractures can essentially be a death sentence for elderly individuals.

Ankle Fractures Can Be Death Sentences For Seniors

For the study, researchers decided to see if “low energy” open ankle fractures had an impact on a senior citizens’ life expectancy. “Low energy” open ankle fractures were classified as compound fractures of the ankle resulting from every day, low-impact activities, like tripping on a step, falling off a curb or stepping wrong and bringing your weight down on an awkwardly positioned ankle. This is a clear distinction from high-impact ankle fractures, which are more common during car accidents or athletic activity.

Ankle Fractures in Seniors

27 percent of patients with an open ankle fracture died within one to two months after the fracture. (People think hip fractures are death sentences for seniors, but only 10 percent of seniors who suffer a hip fracture die within 30 days.)

Most had other health issues that needed to be closely controlled. 82 percent had hypertension, 73 percent had diabetes, 50 percent had a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, nearly half had heart disease and 25 percent had congestive heart failure.

Researchers believe the reason why ankle fractures lead to death in so many cases is two-fold. First, because open fractures are very severe, doctors believe it takes too heavy a burden on the elderly, and it eventually becomes too much to overcome. Secondly, researchers say the other health issues often complicate the ankle’s healing process, and sometimes patients never leave the hospital bed after an ankle fracture.