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Addressing Barriers to Timely Orthopaedic Follow-up for Foot and Ankle Fractures After Emergency Department Visits.

INTRODUCTION: Foot and ankle fractures present common challenges in emergency departments, warranting careful follow-up protocols for optimal patient outcomes. This study investigates the predictors of orthopaedic follow-up for these injuries after an emergency department (ED) visit.

METHODS: A retrospective observational study of 1450 patients seen in the ED with foot or ankle fractures from July 2015 to February 2023 was conducted. All included patients were discharged with instructions to follow-up with an orthopaedic provider. Demographic data, fracture details, and follow-up patterns were extracted from medical records. Social vulnerability was assessed using the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Social Vulnerability Index. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to identify predictors of follow-up. A subgroup analysis comparing patients who followed up >7 days from ED presentation (ie, delayed follow-up) to those who followed up within 7 days of presentation was then performed. Statistical significance was assessed at P < .05.

RESULTS: Overall, 974/1450 (67.2%) patients followed up with orthopaedics at an average time of 4.16 days. After risk adjustment, Medicaid coverage (odds ratio [OR] = 0.56, P = .018), increased overall social vulnerability (OR = 0.83, P = .032), and increased vulnerability across the dimensions of socioeconomic status (P = .002), household characteristics (P = .034), racial and ethnic minority status (P = .007), and household type and transportation (P = .032) were all associated with lower odds of follow-up. Phalangeal fractures were also associated with decreased odds of follow-up (OR = 0.039, P < .001), whereas ankle fractures were more likely to follow-up (OR = 1.52, P = .002). In the subgroup analysis, patients of older age (P = .008), non-white race (P = .024), motor vehicle accident (MVA) (P = .027) or non-private insurance (P = .027), those experiencing phalangeal fractures (P = .015), and those seen by an orthopaedic provider in the ED (P = .006) were more likely to present with delayed follow-up.

CONCLUSION: Patients with increased social vulnerability and Medicaid insurance are less likely to seek follow-up care after presentation to the ED with foot and ankle fractures.

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