Background: Distal radius fractures are common fractures and the cornerstone of treatment remains immobilization of the wrist in a cast. At present, there is a scarcity of studies that compare different cast immobilization methods. The objective of the study was therefore to compare volar-flexion and ulnar deviation cast to functional cast position in the treatment of dorsally displaced distal radius fracture among elderly patients.
Methods and findings: We performed a pragmatic, randomized, controlled trial in three emergency centers in Finland. After closed reduction of the fracture, the wrist was placed in either volar-flexion and ulnar deviation cast or functional cast position. The follow-up was 12 months. The primary outcome was patient-rated wrist evaluation (PRWE) score at 12 months. The secondary outcomes were Quick-DASH score, grip strength, health-related quality of life (15D), and pain catastrophizing scale. The number of complications was also recorded. In total, 105 participants were included in the study. Of these, 88% were female and the mean age was 73.5 (range 65-94) years. In the primary analysis, the mean difference in patient-rated wrist evaluation measure between groups was -4.9 (95% CI: -13.1.- 3.4., p = .24) in favor of the functional cast position. Operative treatment due to loss of reduction of fracture was performed for four patients (8%) in the FC group and for seven patients (13%) in the volar-flexion and ulnar deviation cast group (OR: 0.63, 95% CI: 0.16-2.1).
Conclusion: In this study, the data were consistent with a wide range of treatment effects when comparing two different cast positions in the treatment of distal radius fracture among elderly patients at 12-month follow-up. However, the functional cast is more likely to be superior when compared to volar-flexion and ulnar deviation cast.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT02894983 Accessible: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02894983.