Treatment of unstable distal radius fractures: non-invasive dynamic external fixator versus volar locking plate - functional and radiological outcome in a prospective case-controlled series

SICOT J. 2015 Dec 16:1:34. doi: 10.1051/sicotj/2015033.


Introduction: Distal radius fracture (DRF) is a common injury and various treatment modalities including open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) with volar locking plate are available. More recently, a non-invasive external fixator has been used.

Aims: To prospectively compare the use of a non-invasive external fixator with early dynamisation for DRF against ORIF with volar locking plate control group.

Methods: Consecutive patients with closed DRF were included in a prospective case-controlled study. Patients were assigned to non-invasive external fixator or ORIF. Minimum follow-up was two years. Follow-up was at weeks 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, 26 and at one and two-year post-operatively. The outcome measures included demographic details, injury mechanism, AO fracture type, risk factors, body mass index (BMI), ulnar styloid fracture and dorsal comminution, radiographs, grip strength and DASH score.

Results: Consecutive 50 patients were treated either with non-invasive external fixator (25/50) or with ORIF (25/50) and the mean age of the two groups was 53 years (SD 17.1) and 49 years (SD 19.5), respectively. Demographics were matched in two groups. In the non-invasive external fixator group, there were 10 AO Type-A, 5 Type-B and 10 Type-C fractures. The ORIF group included 8 Type-A, 6 Type-B and 11 Type-C fractures. The mean DASH score at three-months and one-year post-injury in non-invasive fixator group was 12.2 (SD 3.1) and 3.5 (SD 0.7), respectively, significantly greater than those of ORIF group 14.5 (SD 5.6) and 11.2 (SD 4.4), respectively (p < 0.05).

Conclusion: DRF treated with non-invasive external fixator can give functional results superior to ORIF at three-months and the trend is maintained at one and two-year post-operatively.

Keywords: Distal radius fracture; Functional result; Non-invasive fixator; external fixture; volar locking plate.