Fractures of the distal radius. Current concepts for treatment.

Published online: Jun 27 2001

Broos, Fourneau, Stoffelen,

Department of Trauma, University Hospitals, Leuven, Belgium.


The authors review the treatment of fractures of the distal radius, based on their experience and from data in the literature. The choice of a treatment for any given fracture must take into account first of all the stability of the fracture. The best results are achieved in stable fractures. Only minimally displaced distal radius fractures can be treated functionally. However, a plaster cast for one week is indicated for the comfort of the patient. In displaced but stable fractures both closed reduction and percutaneous fixation are indicated. In case of closed reduction, the plaster cast should be applied for 5 to 6 weeks with an above-elbow cast for 3 weeks. Percutaneous fixation gives the best results in extraarticular fractures in younger patients. Because of its simplicity however, it should not be ignored in the elderly osteoporotic patients. In the authors' experience, both techniques were only used for extraarticular fractures. Good and excellent results were found in the closed reduction and plaster cast group in 74% of the patients; the Kapandji technique gave 75% good and excellent results. These results are in line with other findings which show that, for simple fracture types, the Kapandji technique and closed reduction seem to give similar results. External fixation is widely used for intra-articular comminuted fractures. Dynamic external fixation does not show any advantage over static devices. Additional K-wires or bone grafting may be necessary. External fixation gives superior results to plate and screw fixation. Internal fixation should be reserved for fractures with ventral comminution or severe displacement with unacceptable reduction by closed or minimally invasive techniques.