Surgical plating versus closed reduction for fractures in the distal radius in older patients: a cost-effectiveness analysis from the hospital perspective

ANZ J Surg. 2022 Dec;92(12):3311-3318. doi: 10.1111/ans.18134. Epub 2022 Nov 5.


Background: Given the cost differential between surgical and non-surgical management of distal radius fractures, we aimed to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of surgical compared with non-surgical treatment of distal radius fractures in a cohort of older patients.

Methods: This evaluation was conducted alongside the combined randomized and observational study of surgery for fractures of the distal radius in the elderly (CROSSFIRE) trial (ACTRN 12616000969460) which compared surgical (open reduction and internal fixation using volar-locking plate (VLP) fixation) and non-surgical (closed fracture reduction and cast immobilization (CR)) treatment for displaced distal radius fractures in patients ≥60 years. Cost-effectiveness was assessed from the perspective of the public hospital funder. Hospital records from a sub-sample of participants were used to estimate costs. Outcomes were patient-reported wrist pain and function questionnaire (PRWE) scores and quality adjusted life years (QALYs) calculated using the EuroQoL five-dimension five-level tool (EQ-5D-5L).

Results: From 166 participants (81 surgical, 85 non-surgical), costs were obtained for 56 (29 surgical, 27 non-surgical). The mean costs for VLP fixation were Australian dollars (AUD) 6668 (95% CI $4857 to $8479) compared to AUD 3343 (95% CI $1304 to $5381) for CR. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICER) to achieve a 1-point improvement in the PRWE were AUD 375, AUD 1736 and AUD 1126 at 3, 12 and 24 months for VLP compared with CR. At 12 months, the cost effectiveness was dominated by CR (lower cost and better QoL) whereas at 24 months, the incremental cost per QALY gained by VLP was AUD 1 946 127.

Conclusion: In the treatment of distal radius fractures in patients ≥60 years, VLP fixation was not cost-effective compared with CR from the perspective of hospital funders.

Keywords: aged; bone plates; fracture fixation; radius fractures; randomized controlled trial.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Australia
  • Bone Plates
  • Cost-Effectiveness Analysis
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal* / economics
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal* / methods
  • Hospital Costs
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Radius Fractures* / surgery
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome