Background: The most effective method for the fixation of an intra-articular distal radial fracture has not been established. Two commonly used treatment methods are external fixation combined with percutaneous pin fixation and plate fixation. We performed a prospective multicenter randomized trial to compare these two treatment strategies.
Methods: A total of 137 patients with 144 intra-articular distal radial fractures were recruited into the study. The average age of the patients was forty-two years, and all patients were sixty years old or less. The patients were randomized to fracture fixation with one of the two methods. At six, twelve, and twenty-four months postoperatively, the patients were assessed with use of the Gartland and Werley point system and the modified Green and O'Brien scoring system. Arthritis was graded on radiographs according to a modification of the Knirk and Jupiter criteria.
Results: Seventy-four (51%) of the fractures were treated with external fixation and percutaneous pin fixation, and seventy were treated with dorsal, volar, or combined plate fixation. At the time of the twenty-four-month follow-up, the results for the plate fixation group were significantly better than those for the external fixation and percutaneous pin fixation group according to the Gartland and Werley point system (p = 0.04) and the radiographic arthritis grading system (p = 0.01). The difference was especially notable among patients with AO group-C2 fractures.
Conclusions: Plate fixation is better than external fixation combined with percutaneous pin fixation for the treatment of intra-articular fractures of the distal part of the radius.
Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level I. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.