Functional outcomes following fixation of a marginal distal radius fracture with two commonly used volar locking plates: a retrospective cohort study

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2022 Jan 3;23(1):18. doi: 10.1186/s12891-021-04984-1.


Introduction: The volar locking plate has been widely used for unstable distal radius fractures to provide early recovery of wrist function. Volar plate prominence to the watershed line has been reported to be related to flexor tendon irritation, and avoid implant prominence in this area was suggested. On the other hand, marginal distal radius fracture patterns required the plate to cross the watershed line, making conflict over plate positioning on marginal distal radius fractures. This study compared functional outcomes in patients with marginal distal radius fractures treated with two different implants.

Materials and methods: A retrospective study was conducted, all patients who received a Synthes 2.4 mm LCP or an Acumed Acu-Loc VLP between January 2015 and December 2018 were reviewed. The marginal distal radius fracture pattern was the most distal horizontal fracture line within 10 mm of the lunate fossa's joint line. The primary outcomes including patient-reported pain scores, range of motion, and grip strength were assessed. Secondary outcomes included patient-based subjective satisfaction scores of the injured wrist and hand function. The Mayo Wrist Score and the requirement for a secondary procedure related to hardware complications were also recorded.

Results: Forty-two patients met our inclusion criteria. Twenty-one patients were treated with the Synthes 2.4 mm LCP, and 21 patients with the Acumed Acu-Loc VLP. The primary outcome revealed that post-operative range of motion (P = 0.016) and grip strengths (P = 0.014) were significantly improved in the Acu-Loc VLP group. The MAYO wrist score in the Acu-Loc VLP group was also significantly better (P = 0.006).

Conclusions: Despite advances in implant designs, flexor tendon irritation or rupture is still a complication following distal radius's volar plating. We believe the Acumed Acu-Loc VLP design provided better functional outcomes than the Synthes 2.4 mm LCP if appropriately and carefully placed into its designed-for position. This positioning results in promising patient satisfaction when treating marginal distal radius fractures.

Keywords: Distal radius fracture; Flexor tendon irritation; Functional outcome; Volar locking plate; Watershed line.

MeSH terms

  • Bone Plates
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Radius Fractures* / diagnostic imaging
  • Radius Fractures* / surgery
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Wrist Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Wrist Joint / surgery