Previous studies identified limited impairment and disability several years after diaphyseal fractures of both the radius and ulna, although the relationship between impairment and disability was inconsistent. This investigation studied skeletally mature and immature patients more than ten years after injury and addressed the hypotheses that (1) objective measurements of impairment correlate with disability, (2) depression and misinterpretation of nociception correlate with disability, and (3) patients injured when skeletally mature or immature have comparable impairment and disability.Methods:
Seventy-one patients with diaphyseal fractures of the radius and ulna were evaluated at an average of twenty-one years after injury. Twenty-five of the thirty-five patients who were skeletally immature at the time of injury were treated nonoperatively, and thirty-one of the thirty-six skeletally mature patients were treated operatively. Objective evaluation included radiographs, functional assessment, and grip strength. Validated questionnaires were used to measure arm-specific disability (the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand [DASH] score), misinterpretation of pain (Pain Catastrophizing Scale [PCS]), and depression (the validated Dutch form of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression scale [CES-D]).Results:
The average DASH score was 8 points (range, 0 to 54); 97% of patients had excellent or satisfactory results according to the criteria of Anderson et al., and 72% reported no pain. Both the forearm rotation and the wrist flexion/extension arc was 91% of that seen on the uninjured side; grip strength was 94%. There were small but significant differences in rotation (151° versus 169°, p = 0.004) and wrist flexion-extension (123° versus 142°, p = 0.002) compared with the results in the uninjured arm. There was no difference in disability between patients who were skeletally mature or immature at the time of injury. Pain, pain catastrophizing (misinterpretation of nociception), and grip strength were the most important predictors of disability.Conclusions:
An average of twenty-one years after sustaining diaphyseal fractures of both the radius and the ulna, patients who were skeletally immature or mature at the time of fracture have comparable disability. Disability correlates better with subjective and psychosocial aspects of illness, such as pain and pain catastrophizing, than with objective measurements of impairment.Level of Evidence:
Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.