Analysis of 3 Different Operative Techniques for Extra-articular Fractures of the Phalanges and Metacarpals

Hand (N Y). 2021 Sep;16(5):595-603. doi: 10.1177/1558944719873144. Epub 2019 Sep 13.


Background: Several techniques have been described for treating metacarpal and phalangeal fractures. We sought to compare the 3 techniques most frequently used for extra-articular metacarpal and phalangeal fractures: plate screw (PS), Kirschner wire (KW), and retrograde intramedullary screw (RIS) fixation. We aimed to determine whether using an RIS provides better clinical outcomes than using either a PS or a KW fixation. Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of patients who underwent surgical treatment of metacarpal and phalangeal fractures from January 2011 to December 2017 in our department. Only patients with an acutely displaced short oblique or transverse extra-articular metacarpal or phalangeal fracture were included. Patients were classified into 3 groups depending on the treatment they received: PS, KW, or RIS fixation. The duration of each procedure was recorded. Clinical assessments included measuring total active motion (TAM), grip strength, and an evaluation of plain radiographs through to ultimate healing. A Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (QuickDASH) score was collected on all patients. Data were analyzed by analysis of variance or Kruskal-Wallis rank test, as indicated. Results: A total of 253 fractures (202 metacarpal and 51 phalangeal) in 230 patients were included in analysis. In all, 135 fractures (53.3%) underwent PS fixation; 53 (20.9%), KW fixation; and 65 (25.6%), RIS fixation. In the KW fixation group, Bouquet pinning was performed for metacarpal fractures and cross pinning for phalangeal fractures. When more than 1 fracture coexisted in the same patient, they were considered separate instances. No differences among the 3 groups were observed when evaluating mean time to radiological union, grip strength, TAM, or QuickDASH score. Mean surgery time was significantly shorter with KW (20 minutes) and RIS (25 minutes), than with PS (32 minutes). Mean return to work or routine activities time was significantly less in the RIS (7.8 weeks) group than in the PS and KW groups (8.3 and 9.2 weeks, respectively). Conclusions: Surgical treatment is recommended in patients with unstable metacarpal and phalangeal fractures. The use of RIS was associated with shorter mean surgery duration and return to work times than PS and KW, respectively.

Keywords: Kirschner wire; cannulated screws; metacarpal fractures; phalangeal fractures; plate fixation.

MeSH terms

  • Bone Plates
  • Finger Phalanges* / diagnostic imaging
  • Finger Phalanges* / surgery
  • Fractures, Bone* / diagnostic imaging
  • Fractures, Bone* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Metacarpal Bones* / diagnostic imaging
  • Metacarpal Bones* / surgery
  • Retrospective Studies