Intra-articular fractures of the distal aspect of the radius

Instr Course Lect. 1999;48:465-80.


Intra-articular distal radius fractures are a heterogeneous group of injuries with different fracture patterns. The existing classification systems are helpful for describing the fractures but not for assessing their stability or for deciding which surgical approach to use. Patients who have a fracture with at least 1.0 mm of displacement of the articular surface may benefit from open surgical treatment. Improved diagnostic imaging with CT is helpful for fracture classification and surgical planning. The options for surgical treatment include limited open reduction and internal fixation, arthroscopically assisted internal fixation, and open reduction and internal fixation. The surgical approach is determined on the basis of the initial displacement of the fracture. Patients who have a displaced fracture of the volar rim may benefit from a volar approach; those who have a dorsally displaced fracture, from a dorsal approach; and those who have an impacted fracture such as a die-punch fracture, from a dorsal approach that provides better visualization of the articular surface. The long-term functional outcome is determined in part by the severity of the fracture as defined by the amount of comminution, the initial severity of displacement, and the number of fracture fragments. The accuracy of the reconstruction of the articular surface, with the goal of establishing congruency to within 1.0 mm, is also important in order to minimize the risk of late osteoarthrosis. Of all of the extra-articular parameters, restoration of the length of the radius is the most important for enhancing recovery of motion and grip strength and for preventing problems involving the distal radioulnar joint--the so-called forgotten joint in distal radial fractures.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthroscopy
  • Colles' Fracture / classification
  • Colles' Fracture / complications
  • Colles' Fracture / pathology*
  • Colles' Fracture / rehabilitation
  • Colles' Fracture / surgery*
  • External Fixators
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal / methods
  • Humans
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wrist Injuries / classification
  • Wrist Injuries / complications
  • Wrist Injuries / pathology*
  • Wrist Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Wrist Injuries / surgery*