The diagnostic accuracy of Böhler's angle in fractures of the calcaneus

Joseph D Isaacs, Mohammed Baba, Phil Huang, Michael Symes, Maurice Guzman, Haren Nandapalan, Terence Moopanar, Steve Marchalleck, Zoltan Szomor
Journal of Emergency Medicine 2013, 45 (6): 879-84

BACKGROUND: Böhler's historical tuber-joint angle of the calcaneus has been used since 1931. Surprisingly, there is a paucity of literature on its use.

OBJECTIVES: To confirm the normal range for Böhler's angle and determine the angle with the highest accuracy in the diagnosis of calcaneal fractures.

METHODS: A retrospective cohort study was performed. The study cohort comprised 424 patients spanning a 5-year period from April 2005 to March 2010. Böhler's angle was measured by two independent observers on lateral x-ray study using the digital angle tool from the Picture Archival and Communication System. Data were analyzed using Stata 8 statistical software package.

RESULTS: The mean Böhler's angle in patients without calcaneal fracture was 29.4°. In this group there was no difference in Böhler's angle between male and female patients, left and right feet, or across age. In those patients with calcaneal fractures, a Böhler's angle below 25° was moderately predictive of calcaneal fracture (sensitivity = 100%, specificity = 82%), an angle below 23° was highly predictive of calcaneal fracture (sensitivity = 100%, specificity = 89%), and an angle below 21° was strongly suggestive of calcaneal fracture (sensitivity = 99%, specificity = 99%). A Böhler's angle of ≤ 20° had the highest diagnostic accuracy.

CONCLUSION: A Böhler's angle of 20° or less is highly accurate in determining the presence or absence of calcaneal fracture. Böhler's angle serves as a useful screening tool in fracture diagnosis.

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