Low-profile dorsal plating for dorsally angulated distal radius fractures: an outcomes study

Atul F Kamath, David Zurakowski, Charles S Day
Journal of Hand Surgery 2006, 31 (7): 1061-7

PURPOSE: Controversy exists surrounding the effectiveness and complications associated with dorsal plating for distal radius fractures. This study evaluated the functional outcome of dorsal plating for dorsally angulated distal radius fractures at a single institution.

METHODS: Thirty patients formed the study cohort. All plates were low profile and stainless steel. Radiographic parameters, range of motion, and strength compared with the uninjured side were recorded. The functional outcome was evaluated by the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand questionnaire and the Gartland and Werley scoring system.

RESULTS: The median patient age at surgery was 59 years. The median follow-up period was 18 months. According to the AO classification system, there were 4 type A fractures, 5 type B fractures, and 21 type C fractures. The median preoperative dorsal angulation was 30 degrees, and the median postoperative angulation was -4 degrees volar. Sixteen patients with fractures had an intra-articular step-off or gap, which were all corrected to neutral by the procedure. Seven patients with the fractures showed positive ulnar variance, all corrected to neutral at time of follow-up evaluation. Compared with the contralateral side, the mean extension and flexion were 88% and 81%, respectively; pronation and supination were 89% and 87%, respectively; and grip strength and thumb pinch were 78% and 94%, respectively. The mean postoperative Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand questionnaire score was 15 points, and 28 patients had Gartland and Werley scores of good or excellent. No patients needed to have their plates removed, and no extensor tendon rupture was reported. One patient lost reduction, 1 patient needed a tenolysis of the extensor pollicis longus tendon, and 2 patients required the removal of a single metaphyseal screw.

CONCLUSIONS: Results from this study show that patients can expect to have 80% of their range of motion and strength after dorsal plating for distal radius fractures. Moreover, 93% of the patients will have good to excellent functional outcomes. Complications from dorsal plating may be caused by the specific plate used, rather than by the technique itself, supporting a dorsal approach for dorsally angulated distal radius fractures.

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