Comparison of 2 surgical approaches for volar locking plate osteosynthesis of the distal radius

Thomas Lattmann, Michael Dietrich, Christoph Meier, Martin Kilgus, Andreas Platz
Journal of Hand Surgery 2008, 33 (7): 1135-43

PURPOSE: To determine whether a volar radial (Henry) exposure to the distal radius is associated with less median nerve dysfunction than a direct volar exposure of the distal radius through the carpal tunnel that has been abandoned due to median nerve problems.

METHODS: Over an 18-month period, all patients with distal radius fractures treated with volar locking plate osteosynthesis were consecutively integrated into this therapeutic study. A direct volar midline approach ulnar to the flexor tendons and median nerve including prophylactic carpal tunnel release (CTR) was routinely performed from July 2003 to December 2004 (CTR group). Due to median nerve problems, this approach was abandoned and a distal part of the classical Henry approach (HRY) through the flexor carpi radialis (FCR) tendon sheath was performed for volar locking plate osteosynthesis in a second period from April 2005 to May 2006 (HRY group). In this group, the carpal tunnel was released only in selected cases. Data were collected prospectively for both groups. Analysis included clinical examination, the Patient-Rated Wrist Evaluation, and radiological follow-up up to 1 year after surgery.

RESULTS: Eighty-three patients entered the CTR group during the initial series. Thirty-one patients showed median nerve dysfunction 6 weeks after surgery. In the second period of observation, 91 patients entered the HRY group. The carpal tunnel was therapeutically decompressed in 18 patients, leaving the carpal tunnel untouched in 91 patients. Temporary median nerve paraesthesia was seen in 4 patients without CTR in the HRY group 6 weeks after surgery. After 1 year, persistent median nerve irritation was observed in 4 patients of the CTR group and none of the HRY group. Grip strength, range of motion, and Patient-Rated Wrist Evaluation were similar after 1 year.

CONCLUSIONS: The direct volar approach to the distal radius with routine CTR should be abandoned because it was associated with an increased rate of temporary and persistent median nerve irritation compared to the distal part of the classic Henry approach in our series.


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