Surgical correction of dorsally angulated distal radius malunions with fixed angle volar plating: a case series

Kevin J Malone, Thomas D Magnell, D Carl Freeman, Martin I Boyer, Jeffrey D Placzek
Journal of Hand Surgery 2006, 31 (3): 366-72

PURPOSE: To report our experience using a fixed-angle volar plate in conjunction with a corrective osteotomy and cancellous bone graft for the treatment of distal radius malunions with dorsal angulation in 4 patients.

METHODS: Four consecutive patients had a volarly based opening wedge osteotomy with a fixed angle volar plate and cancellous bone grafting for the treatment of a dorsally angulated distal radius malunion. Data collected retrospectively included a visual analog pain scale, grip strength, range of motion, radiographic parameters, and each patient's subjective functional outcomes as measured by the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand questionnaire. Motion, strength, and radiographic values were compared with the contralateral arm for each patient.

RESULTS: The average time from initial fracture to corrective osteotomy was 346 days. The average length of follow-up evaluation was 13.5 months. The flexion-extension arc of motion increased an average of 21 degrees to a value of 84% of the contralateral side; the pronation-supination arc of motion increased an average of 20 degrees to a value of 98% of the contralateral side. The average tilt of the radius improved from 26 degrees extension to 2 degrees extension; the average radial inclination improved from 22 degrees to 24 degrees; the average ulnar variance excluding the 1 patient who had a distal ulna resection improved from 5 mm to 1 mm. The average retrospective Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand score improved from 30 to 7; the average retrospective visual analog pain scale score improved from 4.5 to 1. The average grip strength increased from 20 to 29 kg, which corresponded to 73% of the contralateral extremity.

CONCLUSIONS: The rigid characteristics of fixed angle volar plates can provide an alternative to the traditional techniques of distal radius osteotomy including structural bone grafting and dorsal plate fixation or external fixation. In addition these plates are strong enough to allow for early postoperative motion.


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