Volar plate fixation for the treatment of distal radius fractures: analysis of adverse events

Luigi Tarallo, Raffaele Mugnai, Francesco Zambianchi, Roberto Adani, Fabio Catani
Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma 2013, 27 (12): 740-5

OBJECTIVES: Determining the rate of specific adverse events after volar plating performed for distal radius fractures.

DESIGN: Retrospective.

SETTING: University level I trauma center.

PATIENTS: We searched the electronic database of all surgical procedures performed in our department using the following keywords: distal radius fracture, wrist fracture, and plate fixation. We identified 315 patients, 12 of whom were lost at follow-up.

INTERVENTION: Volar plate fixation for the treatment of distal radius fractures.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASUREMENTS: At an average follow-up of 5 years, 303 patients were evaluated through medical records and clinical and radiographic assessment for specific adverse events after volar plate fixation.

RESULTS: Adverse events were observed in 18 patients (5.9%). Implant-related adverse events, including tendon impairments, intra-articular screws, and screw loosening, were observed in 15 patients (5.0%). Extensor tendon impairments were represented by 5 cases of extensor tenosynovitis and 3 cases of rupture of the extensor pollicis longus due to screws protruding dorsally. Flexor impairments were represented by 2 cases of tenosynovitis and 2 cases of flexor pollicis longus rupture. Screw penetration into the radioulnar joint was observed in 1 case. Loss of reduction was identified in 3 cases. One patient had a deep postoperative infection treated with operative debridement. One patient experienced injury to the median nerve during routine implant removal unrelated to tendon issues.

CONCLUSIONS: The majority of adverse events after volar plate fixation were due to technical errors in implant placement. In our cohort, tendon impairments were the most frequently observed; among these, extensor tendon impairments were the most represented (50% of all adverse events). All 12 tendon-related adverse events were due to technical shortcomings with implant placement.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic level IV.

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