BOSTON, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- Hospital emergency room resources may be put to better use by finding alternative ways to assess and treat lower leg injuries, U.S. researchers suggest.
Kaj Lambers and colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and colleagues say strains and sprains account for more than one-third of lower extremity injuries treated at emergency departments.
Since these injuries are not life-threatening, telephone triage and scheduled care appointments might be a better use of precious emergency healthcare resources, the researchers suggest.
The researchers analyzed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System for 119,815 patients with lower extremity injuries in 2009. The study, published online in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, found strains and sprains accounted for 36 percent of all lower extremity injuries, with the most common injury being an ankle sprain.
Younger patients were more likely to have ankle sprains, foot contusions/abrasions and foot strains/sprains, while older patients were more likely to have lower trunk -- femoral neck, hip, pelvis, and lumbar vertebrae -- fractures and lower trunk contusions/abrasions.
"Different approaches to triage and evaluation of lower extremity injury might result in better utilization of emergency healthcare resources," the study authors say in a statement. "For instance, patients with ankle injuries might call an emergency phone number to be triaged for an urgent visit if necessary, or a scheduled visit during regular business hours instead."