Retrospective comparison of external fixation versus volar locking plate in the treatment of unstable intra-articular distal radius fractures

Mert Kumbaraci, Levent Kucuk, Levent Karapinar, Cengizhan Kurt, Erhan Coskunol
European Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery & Traumatology: Orthopédie Traumatologie 2014, 24 (2): 173-8
The aim of this study is to compare the radiological and functional outcomes of open reduction and volar locking plates versus external fixation (EF) in the treatment of unstable intra-articular distal radius fractures. In this retrospective comparative study, 69 of 80 patients who underwent an operation for AO/ASIF C1, C2 and C3 distal radius fractures were assessed. Functional evaluation was performed using the Gartland-Werley scoring system and the PRWE scale, and wrist range of motion and grip strength was also measured. For the radiological assessment, radial inclination, volar tilt, radial length, ulnar variance, and articular step-off were compared. The range of movement was better for all parameters in the volar plate group, but only wrist flexion and pronation range differed significantly between the groups (p = 0.037 and p = 0.014, respectively). With the exception of better subjective functional results in the volar plate group, the differences were not significant. With respect to radiological evaluation, all parameters were better in the volar plate group, but only radial inclination and articular step-off were significantly better (p = 0.018 and p = 0.029, respectively). In the volar plate group, two patients had carpal tunnel syndrome and one patient had regional pain syndrome. In the external fixator group, six patients had superficial pin tract infection, two patients had sensory branch injury, and four patients had regional pain syndrome. Volar locking plate fixation appeared as a dependable method for the treatment of intra-articular distal radius, with lower complication rates. On the other hand, EF remains a suitable surgical alternative for these fractures, with easy application and acceptable results.

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