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Fractures of the Distal Part of the RadiusThe Evolution of Practice Over Time. Where's the Evidence?
Kenneth J. Koval, MD1; John J. Harrast, MS2; Jeffrey O. Anglen, MD3; James N. Weinstein, DO, MS1
1 Department of Orthopaedics, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, 1 Medical Center Drive, Lebanon, NH 03756. E-mail address for K.J. Koval: kjkmd@yahoo.com
2 930 York Road, Suite 102, Hinsdale, IL 60521
3 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Indiana University, 541 Clinical Drive, Suite 600, Indianapolis, IN 46202
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Disclosure: The authors did not receive any outside funding or grants in support of their research for or preparation of this work. Neither they nor a member of their immediate families received payments or other benefits or a commitment or agreement to provide such benefits from a commercial entity. No commercial entity paid or directed, or agreed to pay or direct, any benefits to any research fund, foundation, division, center, clinical practice, or other charitable or nonprofit organization with which the authors, or a member of their immediate families, are affiliated or associated.
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Investigation performed at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire

The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2008 Sep 01;90(9):1855-1861. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.G.01569
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Background: During the administration of the oral (Part II) examinations for the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery over the past nine years, it has been observed that orthopaedic surgeons are opting more often for open treatment as opposed to percutaneous fixation of distal radial fractures. Evidence to support this change in treatment is thought to be deficient. The present study was designed to identify changes in practice patterns regarding operative fixation of distal radial fractures between 1999 and 2007 and to assess the results of those treatments over time.

Methods: As a part of the certification process, Part II candidates submit a six-month case list to the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. In the present study, we searched the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery Part II database to evaluate changes in treatment over time and to identify available outcomes and associated complications of open and percutaneous fixation of distal radial fractures. All distal radial fractures that had been treated surgically over a nine-year period (1999 to 2007) were reviewed. The fractures were categorized according to fixation method with use of surgeon self-reported surgical procedure codes. Comparisons of percentage treatment type by year were made. Utilization was analyzed by geographic region, and open and percutaneous fixation were compared with regard to complications and outcomes as self-reported by candidates during the online application process.

Results: The proportion of fractures that were stabilized with open surgical treatment increased from 42% in 1999 to 81% in 2007 (p < 0.0001). Although the differences were small, surgeon-reported outcomes revealed that a higher percentage of patients who had been managed with percutaneous fixation had no pain and normal function but some deformity as compared with patients who had had open treatment. Patients who had been managed with percutaneous fixation had a higher overall complication rate (14.0% compared with 12.3%; p < 0.006) and a higher rate of infection (5.0% compared with 2.6%; p < 0.0001) than those who had been managed with open treatment. Patients who had had open treatment had a higher rate of nerve palsy and/or injury (2.0% compared with 1.2%; p = 0.001). No other differences in the reported complication rates were found between the two techniques.

Conclusions: A striking shift in fixation strategy for distal radial fractures occurred over the past decade among younger orthopaedic surgeons in the United States. These changes occurred despite a lack of improvement in surgeon-perceived functional outcomes.

Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level III. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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