Complications associated with operative versus nonsurgical treatment of distal radius fractures in patients aged 65 years and older

Kristina Lutz, Kwan M Yeoh, Joy C MacDermid, Caitlin Symonette, Ruby Grewal
Journal of Hand Surgery 2014, 39 (7): 1280-6

PURPOSE: To compare complication rates for distal radius fractures treated operatively versus nonsurgical in patients older than 65 years. We hypothesized that surgical intervention would improve fracture alignment, but it would be associated with more complications and equivalent functional outcomes when compared with the nonsurgical group.

METHODS: Patients (operative, n = 129) and controls (nonsurgical, n = 129) were identified from a prospective clinical and operating room database. They were matched on fracture severity (AO-A/B/C1 vs AO-C2/C3), sex, age, and energy of injury. Data on complications were extracted from medical charts using a validated complications checklist, and radiologic data were collected for all patients. Functional outcomes (Patient-Related Wrist Evaluation) at 1 year were available in only a subset of patients. We determined differences in complication and reoperation rates using a chi-square test.

RESULTS: A significant number of patients experienced complications in the operative group (operative = 37 of 129; nonsurgical = 22 of 129). The most common complication was median neuropathy (n = 8 operative; n = 14 nonsurgical), followed by surgical site infections (n = 16 operative; 12 of 16 were pin site infections) and complex regional pain syndrome (n = 4 operative; 3 nonsurgical). The complication rate in patients treated with volar plate was 22% (16 of 74), for dorsal plate it was 50% (2 of 4), for external fixation it was 42% (16 of 38), and for percutaneous pinning it was 23% (3 of 13). The number of patients requiring reoperations was similar in both groups (11 [9%] operative; 7 [5%] nonsurgical). Our secondary radiologic and functional outcomes demonstrate that despite a higher incidence of malunion in nonsurgical patients (nonsurgical: 69% vs operative: 29%), a subset of patients from both groups (n = 140) had minimal pain and disability at 1 year (Patient-Related Wrist Evaluation operative: 16.9 ± 23.2; nonsurgical: 15.7 ± 17.5).

CONCLUSIONS: In a study matching fracture severity, sex, age, and energy of injury, we found that elderly patients with distal radius fractures who underwent surgery had higher complication rates than those treated nonsurgically.


Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"