Systematic prospective electrophysiological studies of the median nerve after simple distal radius fracture

PLoS One. 2020 Apr 13;15(4):e0231502. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0231502. eCollection 2020.


Purpose: To assess whether there is a measurable impairment of median nerve conduction study parameters with uncomplicated distal radius fracture.

Methods: Patients were assessed prospectively at the time of cast removal (visit 1) after a standard 6-8 week immobilization for uncomplicated distal radius fracture. Patients with prior entrapment neuropathy or polyneuropathy were excluded. Patients were asked to report sensory symptoms. Median and ulnar motor and sensory conduction studies were performed bilaterally, as well as transcarpal stimulation. All electrophysiologic studies were repeated at a follow-up visit 2, on average 7.8 weeks later.

Results: 39 patients were assessed at visit 1 and 30 (77%) were available for follow-up visit 2. Paresthesia in the median territory on the fractured side were reported in 20% at visit 1 and 26% at visit 2. Electrophysiological evidence of only mild carpal tunnel syndrome was found on the fractured side in 4/39 at visit 1 and 6/30 at visit 2. There were only 2 cases of moderate-marked median neuropathy, both asymptomatic and on the unfractured side. Median motor and sensory latencies and amplitudes did not show statistically significant differences between fractured and unfractured sides with the single exception of median distal motor latency at visit 1.

Conclusions: Median territory paresthesia at the time of cast removal following distal radius fracture are often not associated with electrophysiologic evidence of median neuropathy. Most median nerve electrophysiologic parameters do not significantly differ between the fractured and uninjured sides. Significant traumatic median neuropathy is not likely to be a frequent manifestation of uncomplicated distal radius fracture.

Level of evidence: Diagnostic analysis, Level III.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Median Nerve / physiopathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Conduction / physiology
  • Neurologic Examination / methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radius Fractures / physiopathology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Ulnar Nerve / physiopathology
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.