Comparison of locked volar plating versus pinning and external fixation in the treatment of unstable intraarticular distal radius fractures

Hand (N Y). 2008 Jun;3(2):111-7. doi: 10.1007/s11552-007-9080-0. Epub 2007 Oct 17.


Introduction: We retrospectively compared the outcomes of open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) with volar locking plate versus standard external fixation and percutaneous pinning in treating similar unstable distal radius fractures with a minimum 2-year follow-up.

Methods: The ORIF group included 41 patients with an average follow-up of 29 months. The external fixation group comprised 14 patients with an average follow-up of 33 months. Average age at presentation was 45 years in the external fixation group and 48 years in the ORIF group. The male/female ratios were 16:25 among the ORIF group and 6:8 in the external fixation group. The two groups were compared for clinical and functional outcomes measured by the disabilities of the arm, shoulder, and hand (DASH) score. Pain scores were similar. Radiographic measurements were also evaluated between groups.

Results: Final ranges of motion and grip strengths were similar between the two groups. The mean DASH score of the locked volar plate group was 9 compared to 23 for the external fixation group. Radiographically, volar tilt and radial length were significantly better in the patients treated with ORIF. The ORIF group required less therapy visits. No complications occurred in the locked volar plate group whereas two patients had pin tract infections and one had prolonged finger stiffness in the external fixation group.

Conclusion: Locked volar plating compares favorably to external fixation and pinning for amenable fracture patterns. Whereas grip and range-of-motion data were similar, DASH scores, frequency of rehabilitation, and some radiographic parameters were superior in patients treated with ORIF.