Functional outcome and complications after volar plating for dorsally displaced, unstable fractures of the distal radius

Tamara D Rozental, Philip E Blazar
Journal of Hand Surgery 2006, 31 (3): 359-65

PURPOSE: Despite the recent popularity of volar plating for dorsally displaced distal radius fractures there is a paucity of data documenting the results of this treatment method. The purpose of this study was to determine the functional outcome of patients treated with volar fixed-angle plating for dorsally displaced, unstable distal radius fractures.

METHODS: We reviewed the records of all patients treated at our institution with internal fixation using volar plates for dorsally displaced, comminuted distal radius fractures. Patients with follow-up periods shorter than 12 months were excluded from the study. Outcomes were evaluated at the latest follow-up examination with the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand and the Gartland and Werley scoring systems.

RESULTS: We studied 41 patients with a mean age of 53 years. The average follow-up period was 17 months. All fractures were stabilized with volar locking plates. Radiographs in the immediate postoperative period showed a mean radial height of 11 mm, mean radial inclination of 21 degrees , and mean volar tilt of 4 degrees. At fracture healing the mean radial height was 11 mm, mean radial inclination was 21 degrees, and mean volar tilt was 5 degrees. The average score on the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand questionnaire was 14 and all patients achieved excellent and good results on the Gartland and Werley scoring system, indicating minimal impairment in activities of daily living. Nine patients experienced postoperative complications. There were 4 instances of loss of reduction with fracture collapse, 3 patients required hardware removal for tendon irritation, 1 patient developed a wound dehiscence, and 1 patient had metacarpophalangeal joint stiffness.

CONCLUSIONS: Patients with unstable, dorsally displaced fractures of the distal radius treated with volar fixed-angle devices have good or excellent functional outcomes despite a high complication rate. When compared with previous reports on dorsal plating volar plates appear to have a higher incidence of fracture collapse but a lower rate of hardware-related complications. Complex fracture patterns thus mandate a careful and individualized approach.


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