A biomechanical comparison of different wrist external fixators with and without K-wire augmentation

J Hand Surg Am. 1999 May;24(3):516-24. doi: 10.1053/jhsu.1999.0516.


To compare stability of wrist external fixation, simulated unstable extra-articular distal radius fractures were created in 7 fresh-frozen cadaveric upper extremities and stabilized using 4 different external fixators. Physiologic muscle tension across the wrist was simulated by application of 40-N load distributed among the wrist tendons. Alternating loads of up to 100 N in flexion and extension of the wrist were applied during stability testing and 3-dimensional kinematics of the proximal and distal fracture fragments were determined using attached infrared light-emitting diodes and a 3-dimensional motion tracking system. Fracture stability was reassessed for each of the constructs after augmentation of the fracture fragments with a single dorsal transfixion K-wire. K-wire augmentation demonstrated a significant reduction in motion of the distal radial fragment of at least 40% in all 3 rotational planes. For flexion/extension, the reduction in motion was from 4.5 degrees to 2.6 degrees. For radial/ulnar deviation, the range of motion decreased from 3.0 degrees to 1.5 degrees. Rotational motion declined from an average of 3.2 degrees to 1.2 degrees. The addition of the single dorsal transfixion K-wire significantly improved stability of each of the 4 fixators in at least 1 of the 3 planes in which motion was measured. While we compared the most rigid with some of the least rigid external fixators, the data do not support an important difference in fracture fragment stability among the 4 fixators. The data much more strongly support the concept of K-wire augmentation for increasing stability of an unstable extra-articular distal radius fracture regardless of the type of external fixator that is used.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cadaver
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • External Fixators*
  • Humans
  • Radius Fractures / physiopathology
  • Radius Fractures / surgery*
  • Range of Motion, Articular