[Locked volar plating for complex distal radius fractures: maintaining radial length]

J Jeudy, J Pernin, P Cronier, A Talha, P Massin
Revue de Chirurgie Orthopédique et Réparatrice de L'appareil Moteur 2007, 93 (5): 435-43

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY: Maintaining radial length, likely to be the main challenge in the treatment of complex distal radius fractures, is necessary for complete grip-strength and pro-supination range recovery. In spite of frequent secondary displacements, bridging external-fixation has remained the reference method, either isolated or in association with additional percutaneous pins or volar plating. Also, there seems to be a relation between algodystrophy and the duration of traction applied on the radio-carpal joint. Fixed-angle volar plating offers the advantage of maintaining the reduction until fracture healing, without bridging the joint.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: In a prospective study, forty-three consecutive fractures of the distal radius with a positivated ulnar variance were treated with open reduction and fixed-angle volar plating. Results were assessed with special attention to the radial length and angulation obtained and maintained throughout treatment, based on repeated measurements of the ulnar variance and radial angulation in the first six months postoperatively.

RESULTS: The correction of the ulnar variance was maintained until complete recovery, independently of initial metaphyseal comminution, and of the amount of radial length gained at reduction. Only 3 patients lost more than 1 mm of radial length after reduction. The posterior tilt of the distal radial epiphysis was incompletely reduced in 13 cases, whereas reduction was partially lost in 6 elderly osteoporotic female patients. There was 8 articular malunions, all of them less than 2 mm. Secondary displacements were found to be related to a deficient locking technique. Eight patients developed an algodystropy. The risk factors for algodystrophy were articular malunion, associated posterior pining, and associated lesions of the ipsilateral upper limb.

CONCLUSION: Provided that the locking technique was correct, this type of fixation appeared efficient in maintaining the radial length in complex fractures of the distal radius. The main challenge remains the reduction of displaced articular fractures. Based on these results, it is not possible to conclude that this method is superior to external fixation.

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