Volar fixed-angle plate osteosynthesis of unstable distal radius fractures: 12 months results

Markus Figl, Patrick Weninger, Michael Liska, Marcus Hofbauer, Martin Leixnering
Archives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery 2009, 129 (5): 661-9

BACKGROUND: With an incidence of about 2-4 per 1,000 residents per year, the distal radial fracture is the most common fracture in the human skeleton. The introduction of fixed-angle plate systems for extension fractures at the radius was evaluated in a prospective study performed at our hospital after selection and acquisition of a new system. The focus of our interest was whether a secondary loss of reduction can be avoided by this plating system.

METHODS: We reviewed 80 patients treated for unstable distal radius fractures using a volar fixed-angle plate. Postoperative management included immediate finger motion, early functional use of the hand, a wrist splint used for 4 weeks and physiotherapy. Standard radiographic and clinical fracture parameters after 12 months (range 12-14 months) were measured and final functional results where assessed.

RESULTS: Bone healing had occurred in all patients at the time of follow-up after 1 year. On X-rays taken at the time of follow-up 60 patients (75%) had no radial shortening, 20 patients (25%) had a mean radial shortening of only 1.8 mm (range 1-3 mm) compared to the contralateral side. The radial tilt was on average 22 degrees (range 14 degrees-36 degrees); the volar tilt was on average 6 degrees (range 0 degrees-18 degrees). Comparing the first postoperative X-rays with those taken at final evaluation showed no measureable loss of reduction in the volar or radial tilt. Castaing's score, which includes the radiographic results, yielded a perfect outcome in 30 cases, a good outcome in 49 cases and an adequate outcome in one case. The range of motion was on average reduced by 21% during extension/flexion, by 11% during radial/ulnar deviation and by 7% in pronation and supination compared to the contralateral side. Grip strength was 65% that of the contralateral side. The mean DASH score was 25 points.

CONCLUSION: Fixed-angle plate osteosynthesis at the distal radius signifies a significant improvement in the treatment of distal radial fractures in terms of restoration of the shape and function of the wrist. The technically simple palmar access, with a low rate of complications, allows exact anatomical reduction of the fracture. The multidirectional fixed-angle system we used provides solid support for the joint surface even in osteoporotic bone and allows simple subchondral placement of screws with sustained retention of the outcome of reduction. Secondary correction loss can be avoided by this procedure. Early mobilisation can be achieved and is recommended.

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