Volar versus dorsal plating in the management of intra-articular distal radius fractures

David S Ruch, Anastasios Papadonikolakis
Journal of Hand Surgery 2006, 31 (1): 9-16

PURPOSE: To compare the complications and functional and radiographic outcomes of volar and dorsal plating of intra-articular distal radius fractures.

METHODS: This retrospective review included 34 patients found by searching a database of 350 patients treated for distal radius fractures. Inclusion criteria were (1) at least 1 year of follow-up data and (2) open reduction and internal fixation of a multifragmentary fragment intra-articular distal radius fracture with either a nonlocking volar or dorsal plate. Twenty patients were treated with a dorsal plate and 14 patients were treated with a volar nonlocking plate. Objective and subjective outcome parameters were compared between the 2 groups. Objective evaluations included wrist range of motion, grip strength, and preoperative and postoperative radiographic parameters (radial inclination, palmar tilt, ulnar variance, fracture pattern). Subjective evaluations were performed using the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (DASH) questionnaire score and the Gartland and Werley score.

RESULTS: Volar plating resulted in a significantly better Gartland-Werley score compared with dorsal plating. There were no significant differences in the DASH score. Volar collapse was documented in 5 of the 20 patients in the dorsal plating group, which resulted in a mild loss of pronation compared with the volar plating group. No collapse occurred in the volar plating group. In addition the difference in the percentage of wrist range of motion compared with the contralateral wrist was not significant. Dorsal plating was associated with a ruptured extensor indicis tendon in 1 patient; secondary surgical procedures were required in 4 patients (tenolyses and radial styloidectomy). Volar plating was associated with median nerve neuropathy in 2 patients and intersection syndrome in one.

CONCLUSIONS: Although both groups of patients had similar DASH scores the functional outcome in terms of Gartland and Werley scores was better in the volar plating group. In addition there was a higher rate of volar collapse and late complications in the dorsal plating group compared with the volar plating group.


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