Assessment of Technical Competence in Distal Radius Fracture Fixation by a Volar Locking Plate: A Global Delphi Consensus Study

J Hand Surg Am. 2023 Sep;48(9):875-885. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2023.05.012. Epub 2023 Jun 30.


Purpose: Volar locking plate fixation of distal radius fractures is a common orthopedic procedure and should be mastered by graduating orthopedic residents. Surgical education is transitioning from a traditional time-based approach to competency-based medical education. Valid and objective assessment is essential for successful transition. The purpose of this study was to develop a comprehensive, procedure-specific assessment tool to evaluate technical competence in volar locking plate osteosynthesis of a distal radius fracture.

Methods: International orthopedic/trauma experts involved in resident education participated as panelists in a four-round online Delphi process to reach consensus on the content of the assessment tool. Round 1 was an item-generating round, in which the panelists identified potential assessment parameters. In round 2, the panelists rated the importance of each suggested assessment parameter and reached consensus on which to include in the assessment tool. Round 3 yielded specific assessment score intervals for specific bone and fracture models and is not reported in this study. In round 4, the panelists assigned weights to the assessment parameters on a 1-10 scale to determine how each parameter should have an impact on the overall results.

Results: Eighty-seven surgeons, representing 42 countries, participated in the study. Round 1 resulted in 45 assessment parameters, grouped into five procedural steps. After round 2, the number of parameters was reduced to 39. After the final round, an additional parameter was removed and weights were assigned to the remaining parameters.

Conclusions: Using a systematic methodology, a preliminary assessment tool to evaluate technical competence in distal radius fracture fixation was developed. A consensus of international experts supports the content validity of the assessment tool.

Clinical relevance: This assessment tool represents the first step in the evidence-based assessment essential for competency-based medical education. Before implementation, further studies exploring validity of variations of the assessment tool in different educational contexts are required.

Keywords: Assessment of surgical skills; Delphi; competency-based medical education; distal radius fracture; volar locking plate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bone Plates
  • Delphi Technique
  • Fracture Fixation, Internal / methods
  • Humans
  • Radius Fractures* / surgery
  • Wrist Fractures*