Functional fracture bracing

A Sarmiento, L L Latta
Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 1999, 7 (1): 66-75
Functional bracing is an effective therapeutic modality in the management of selected fractures of the tibia, humerus, and ulna, particularly low-energy injuries. In the case of tibial fractures, it is applicable only to reduced transverse fractures and to axially unstable fractures with an acceptable degree of shortening. The rate of union of tibial fractures after functional bracing is approximately 97%. The initial shortening noted with closed tibial fractures rarely increases with weight bearing. Shortening has been reported to be as little as 12 mm in 95% of patients, with angulation of 8 degrees in 90%. Such minimal shortening and angulation do not affect functional results. In closed and type I open diaphyseal humeral fractures treated with functional braces, the nonunion rate is approximately 3%. Most of the reported residual angular deformities have been functionally and cosmetically acceptable. For isolated ulnar fractures, the nonunion rate is approximately 2%. Functional fracture bracing is predicated on the premise that motion at the fracture site encourages osteogenesis. The method is applicable only to selected fractures, and it is necessary to have a clear understanding of its rationale, indications, and technique.

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