Open reduction and internal fixation of volar lip fractures of the distal radius

R S Smith, J C Crick, J Alonso, M Horowitz
Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma 1988, 2 (3): 181-7
Fractures of the volar lip of the distal radius are relatively uncommon injuries. However, controversy exists concerning the treatment of these fractures. We reviewed our experience with open reduction and internal fixation through a volar approach using buttress plates. Sixteen patients with 17 fractures were treated by this method. Their ages ranged from 16 to 65 years (average 38 years). Eight fractures occurred secondary to motor vehicle accidents, while the remaining patients sustained falls. Mean follow-up time was 19.5 months. All fractures healed with no infections. Sixteen of the fractures were treated primarily with open reduction and internal fixation, while one patient was treated 6 weeks after injury for a malunion. Ranges of motion averaged 71 degrees dorsiflexion, 60 degrees palmar flexion, 79 degrees pronation, 78 degrees supination, 22 degrees radial deviation, and 32 degrees ulnar deviation. Analysis of results demonstrated 12 excellent, 2 good, and 3 fair results. Two patients with fair results had nonanatomic restoration of the joint surface at surgery, while the other patient with a fair result was treated late. We recommend early open reduction and internal fixation of displaced or unstable volar lip fractures of the distal radius. Accurate anatomic alignment and stable fixation are achieved with the volar buttress plate. Motion can begin 2-3 days after surgery to aid in obtaining excellent functional results.

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